At first glance, the main character in Lighthouse Repertory Theatre’s new play might bring to mind images of an older Jimmy Stewart — think “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” plus 20 years.
But this is David Mamet, not Frank Capra, and a different Mr. Smith is the star of the show.
Howard Patterson stars as President Charles Smith in LRT’s production of the 2007 play “November.” Set entirely in the Oval Office, last week’s “November” premiere marked the first time LRT has teamed up with the Chetco Pelican Players to perform in Brookings.
LRT will feature “November” again this weekend at College of the Redwoods’ Del Norte Education Center.
“November,” which is for adults only due to its colorful language, also marks a departure from LRT’s more family-friendly productions, according to the play’s director, Dan McGlasson.
“It’s contemporary. It talks about the war with Iraq and it hits on gay marriage,” he said. “We pretty much offend everyone — all the different groups.”
With the election two weeks away, Smith, whose popularity ratings are “so low they broke the machine,” attempts to threaten, haggle and bribe his way to a second term, or at least a presidential library.
Even with two assistants, played by Bob Brissenden and Karen Martinez, trying to keep him honest, Smith is willing to sell out just about anyone, including those closest to him, to win.
For Patterson, who has 38 years of theater under his belt, playing the lead in a David Mamet play is nothing new. His previous experience includes acting in “Glengarry Glen Ross” and directing “American Buffalo.”
Patterson described his character as someone who’s insecure, willing to do whatever it takes to get what he wants, but ultimately winds up devastated.
“It’s not so much people being angry. He’s used to that,” Patterson said. “It’s people being disappointed in him (that he can’t take). He’s despicable. He wants the world, but he wants to be loved.”
McGlasson, who has always wanted “to do something different,” said he had to persuade LRT’s board that a production of Mamet’s play would be well-received in the community. Many senior board members were worried that the donors would be upset by the bad language, he said.
But, after one weekend in Brookings, those fears appear to have been unfounded, McGlasson said.
“One of our board members who voted ‘no’ said (the play) was well-done and funny,” he said. “She still didn’t like the bad language, but she liked the play.”
McGlasson and Mike Moran, vice president and founding member of the Chetco Pelican Players, pointed out that many strong presidents have used profanity, bringing up tape recordings of Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon as proof.
“I thought we could get away with it,” Moran said, referring to the play’s mature themes. “There are enough adults out there who appreciate good theater.”
Moran said last weekend was the first time an LRT play was shown at the Chetco Playhouse. Both organizations would sometimes share costumes, sets and actors, but they have never done a co-production, he said.
“We felt it would be a good idea,” he said. “A ‘hands-across-the-footlights’ kind of thing.”
McGlasson, who has directed eight or nine LRT productions, said he hopes this production of Mamet’s play will be the start of more “off-beat plays that cause a stir.”
“I want to get more people involved,” he said. “Attendance has been down in the last few years. But live theater, the special thing that happens between actors and audience, is an integral part. That energy helps you as an actor.”
“November” will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the College of the Redwoods Del Norte Education Center library, 883 W. Washington Blvd. in Crescent City. There will also be a 2:30 p.m. matinee on Sunday at the Del Norte Education Center’s library.
Tickets are $12 and are available in Brookings at Wright’s Custom Framing and Art Supplies and in Crescent City at Del Norte Office Supply.