How To Act Presidential

If you're suffering from P.P.E.—Premature Political Exhaustion—and wondering how you'll make it to this fall's election, here's an antidote. "November," a new Broadway comedy by David Mamet, introduces you to a candidate you'd never vote for, no matter what your partisan leanings. Charles H.P. Smith (Nathan Lane) is a president who's about to fail, disastrously, in his bid for a second term. He's raised only $4,000 for his campaign, and his poll numbers "are lower than Gandhi's cholesterol." Why? he wonders, as he paces the Oval Office, which he's equipped with an exercise machine, golf clubs and a globe that doubles as a beer cooler. "Because you f–––ed everything," says his chief of staff, Archie (Dylan Baker). "They hate you." Big laugh.

Despite the play's contemporary hooks—the country is at war in Iraq but not Iran, though it's unclear whether this prez can tell the difference—Mamet has denied that the character is based on Bush. And "November" isn't razor-sharp satire (like his "Wag the Dog"); it's comedy so broad, it borders on shtik. "Chuckie," as his aide calls him, tries to shake down the head of the National Association of Turkey Manufacturers and battles his gay Jewish speechwriter (Laurie Metcalf). The cast is hilarious, the play frothy. You want serious theater? Tune into C-Span.