From the first beat of the pre-show announcement to the very last scene, get ready to laugh your way all the way out of the governor’s office; Scripps Ranch Theatre’s newest offering, The Outsider by Paul Slade Smith, is a searingly hilarious political satire that is not to be missed! Running through October 9, this production, directed by Christopher Williams, enjoyed a well deserved standing ovation on opening night.
The Outsider follows newly appointed Governor Ned Newley as he scrambles for a foothold in the wake of his predecessor’s untimely ousting. From the first moment he is sworn in, it becomes apparent that, although Ned is brilliant with policy, he has an utter lack of interpersonal skills in high pressure situations. While this is terrifying to his champion and Chief of Staff, Dave Riley, bigshot political consultant Arthur Vance is delighted. “Real” is polling well, according to pollster Paige Caldwell. And what better way is there to succeed, after all, than to give the public what they want? After all, “unprepared,” Vance claims, “is where it’s at.”
The ensemble show is perfectly cast; each character brings its own set of idiosyncracies, and every single choice works. Robert May enters the stage with a lovable buffoonery as the new governor, carrying visible anxiety in the trembling of extremities, shuffling gait, and under-the-breath muttering. Firmly in his boss’s court, Adam Daniel is comic gold as the too-good-for-politics Chief of Staff who is trying to build said staff in real time. He is idealism and conscience personified, with outrageous physical comedic reactions; I can only imagine how exhausted he must be after each show. John Nutten arrives on stage as the charismatic Arthur Vance, larger than life with his smize and hand gestures and, paired with competent and confident Deborah Dordaro as Paige… well, it’s just so… political. Michelle Marie Trester’s vacuous portrayal of Louise Peaks had us cackling from the start of act 1, setting the stage for her to inevitably find herself in the wrong place at the wrong time, just in time for the journalist team of bitter reporter Rachel Parsons (Leigh Akin) and disengaged cameraman AC Peterson (Walter Murray) to go live on TV. Hilarity ensues. And just wait until you get to the color system scene!
The intimate stage of Scripps Ranch Theatre, housed on Alliant International University campus, is a great venue for this production, and hats are off to director Christopher Williams and his production team, who have transformed it into a comfortable political office. The set, which features wood grain and cream with deep burgundy accents, is well apportioned. In fact, it feels almost surveillance-like to peek into the inner workings of this (very dysfunctional) government office, and that is a testament to the skill of the team in writing and executing blocking with such a long and shallow room.
When all is said and done, The Outsider, with its clever, satirical writing (and scathing criticism of the drama at the heart of all politics), is worth the trip to the polls at Scripps Ranch Theatre on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through October 9.