If you went on a date with Stage West’s production of The Outsider, the first half would be the equivalent of adequate conversation and you would be looking at your watch. If you parted at this point, you probably wouldn’t be looking for a second date. But if you got to the second half, you’d be hooked.
The play, written by Paul Slade Smith is a smart, sly, comedy that tells of Ned Newley (Mark Weatherley) who finds himself as the new Governor, when political scandal forced the former Governor to quit. The problem is that Ned doesn’t do public speaking, or media, or anything that involves being in the limelight. His Chief of Staff Dave Riley (Mark Crawford) has never worked for a politician who has won and quickly hires Paige Caldwell (Kathryn Kerbes) a pollster to help out. When media honcho Arthur Vance (David LeReany) watches Ned’s abysmal swearing in ceremony he immediately wants to direct his political career. Arthur might be on track to ensure Ned’s success, but then he meets Louise Peakes (Adrienne Merrell) on a news interview with reporter Rachel Parsons (Camille Pavlenko) and her cameraman A.C Petersen (Robert Klein). Louise has what it takes to be the new Lieutenant Governor, as in she is blissfully unaware of how to do anything.
The Outsider is political commentary of how democracy elects idiots who don’t actually know what government is supposed to do. They look like leaders, who say vague statements that the people buy into. The first half of the play perpetuates this narrative and it’s funny, but not enough to keep the audience hooked. Then, in the second half Klein talks about how everyone is too busy to pay attention and it’s crowded enough, what’s the point in caring about politics? This is where the production is quite astute in commenting on our current political climate. Because as Ned says, if we keep going, we’ll have uneducated kids and really rich cows.
The production offers a talented cast especially in the steadiness of Crawford and the agility of Weatherley. It’s nice to see Kerbes in this role as political savant and Pavalenko shows her ability to portray a diversity of characters, as this role is miles away from her last role in Theatre Calgary’s Noises Off.
Norman J. Galenza-MacDonald’s costume design has everyone looking smart when they need to and frumpy when they need to as well! While the set is a simple office, big enough to have the action unfold.
Director J. Sean Elliott gets creative with the news broadcast and bring a sweet charm to the whole production.
If the state of politics currently makes you want to tune out, tune into Stage West’s The Outsider, running until April 19th. More information is available online.
Photo credit to: John Watson Photography