The Outsider
(front) John Seibert & Natalie Storrs; (back) Jacque Wilke & Max Macke. Photo by Aaron Rumley.

The Outsider

North Coast Rep

Written by Paul Slade Smith
Directed by David Ellenstein
North Coast Repertory Theatre, Solana Beach
February 2 – March 22, 2020 (West Coast Premiere)

A sex scandal leads to the resignation of an elected official and creates a leadership vacuum. Political fodder for today’s newsfeed? Nope. These actions fuel the engine of the most astonishing election campaign to emerge in what is already an astonishing election year.

My fellow Americans, meet the uproarious political satire “The Outsider” receiving its West Coast Premiere at North County Rep.

The story takes place in the office of the governor of a small, unnamed state. The room is in desperate need of an occupant after the state’s chief executive offers himself as a consolation prize to the runner-up in a beauty pageant. Replacing the disgraced official is painfully shy lieutenant governor Ned (John Seibert in a stellar performance that is both cringe inducing and endearing). A political wonk who would rather sit alone in a basement office poring over budget spreadsheets, it’s no surprise a video of Ned’s mumbling, stumbling swearing-in ceremony goes viral.

This leaves chief of staff Dave (Christopher M. Williams with great comedic chops) the unenviable task of trying to instill public confidence so the new governor can keep his job. Early numbers from pollster extraordinaire Paige (the enormously talented Shana Wride) are not encouraging and even the furniture conspires against Ned as he sits for the first time in the governor’s chair only to have it slowly sink to the floor.  

A slick political consultant named Arthur (Louis Lotorto, who doubles down in a double-breasted suit and high-wattage smile) attempts image building of Ned but this backfires during a live interview with TV reporter Rachel (Natalie Storrs). Ill-advised was replacing Ned’s suit and tie with a red-plaid flannel shirt and John Deere cap. It lends Ned the panache of Elmer Fudd. Splendid costume design all the way around by Elisa Benzoni.

More chaos erupts with the arrival of an inept office temp. “Phones are not my strongest area,” says Louise (Jacque Wilke, who steals scene after scene). This proves to be the understatement of the year as she misdirects calls, leaves guests cooling their heels in the reception area and commandeers Ned’s TV interview by initiating a game of Steadicam peek-a-boo as cameraman A.C. Petersen (Max Macke) tries desperately to keep Louise out of frame.

But wait! A new poll number indicate the public loves Louise because “she’s just like us” and a political star is born. 

In today’s political climate – when often you don’t know whether to laugh or cry – consider this a resounding endorsement of “The Outsider.”

By Lynne Friedmann

San Diego ,
Lynne Friedmann, based in San Diego, is an award-winning, freelance writer of news, feature articles, and blogs on science, travel, and the arts. Her decades-long passion for theater was sparked as a teen when the Inner City Cultural Center commandeered classroom curricula by bringing classic plays to urban high schools in Los Angeles.