Wednesday, July 3, 2024

N/A (Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater)

By Harry Forbes

Crackling good performances by Holland Taylor and Ana Villafañe as characters “inspired by” Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (the titular “N” and “A”) highlight this taut, witty play by Mario Correa who crafts this two-hander as a confrontation (mostly cordial) between N’s pragmatic decades-long experience in Congress against newbie A’s brash and impatient desire for change.

Tautly directed by Diane Paulus who draws convincing performances from her stars, the 80 minute play holds your interest throughout. The play set in the “recent past” basically charts the time between the Democrats gaining the House of Representatives and then losing it, which is to say, roughly 2018 to 2022 

Taylor already had a triumph portraying a real-life character, late Texas Governor Ann Richards at Lincoln Center’s upstairs space, and she is once again quite brilliant as the first woman Speaker of the House, though "N/A" is not a Lincoln Center Theater production. Similarly, Villafañe j-- who triumphed on Broadway as Gloria Estefan in “On Your Feet” -- scores again, this time as the youngest woman elected to Congress. 

Though A’s abrasiveness at first has the audience more on N’s side, Correa is careful to keep our sympathies nicely balanced between his two well intentioned but vastly different protagonists. So, too, a late-in-play revelation from A generates further sympathy and motivations for her passions.

Their sparring is lively, and sometimes heated (as in A’s insistence that ICE be abolished with indignation about children in cages) but never descends to nasty hostility. “A battle of ideas” was Correa’s intent, according to a brief program note. And much of their snappy repartee is quite entertaining and often amusing. For the record, Donald Trump is never mentioned by name just pronoun, but clearly held in disdain.

Myung Hee Cho’s ultra simple production design -- a pared down evocation of N’s office -- is artful and attractive, and her costumes are right on target for the real-life models. Mextly Couzin’s ingenious lighting, along with Possible Lisa Renkel’s projections,  brilliantly effects scene changes with a sort of sweeping black out effect that gives the impression of a curtain closing between the play’s several scenes.

(Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center, 150 W. 65th St.; or by or 212-239-6200; through August 4 ) 

Photo by Daniel Rader: (l.-r.) Ana Villafañe, Holland Taylor Print this post

1 comment:

  1. Sounds very interesting, Harry. Thanks for a lively succinct review.