SOLANA BEACH — Politics. A favorite target amongst the comedy world since the Romans, and now, realized upon the stage of North Coast Repertory. Paul Slade’s non-partisan satire “The Outsider,” will debut on the West Coast at the Solana Beach venue on Feb. 22.
The plot of “The Outsider” concerns Ned Newley, a lieutenant governor who essentially runs his state from behind the scenes within the safety of his basement office. When the actual governor is toppled by a scandal, the quiet and low-key Newley finds himself within the unenviable position of state governor.
North Coast Rep Assistant Artistic Director Christopher Williams plays Dave Riley, Newley’s high-strung, idealistic and knowledgeable chief of staff. Riley believes in Newley wholeheartedly and devotes himself to keeping Newley in government. “But there is absolutely no staff, it is literally just him,” said Williams, who researched what a chief of staff’s duties entail, to prepare for the role. He describes Riley as the guy who really ought to be in charge of things.
“(Riley) is trying to keep everyone together and trying to keep his guy in office,” he said. “And he’s running around trying to solve everything. He’s high-strung, he doesn’t really know what he is doing, completely, and so he hires a pollster that he worked with in a previous campaign, who’s this really brilliant pollster … to help him out. And he also hires one temp, and he thinks, somehow, that’s a good thing.”
Williams described the play as a fast-paced “higher comedy,” relying on the tried-and-true method of sight gags and subtle wordplay to earn its chuckles. The play (which was first published in 2018) is also topical, despite that it makes a point not to allude, at least explicitly, to the current U.S. political climate.
The cast was initially given an older version of the script to use for rehearsals, and they retained aspects of it when they were given a new script about a week in, with Slade’s permission. Director David Ellenstein has also allowed the cast to “explore” the comedy in their rehearsals.
Williams said that playwright Paul Slade (whose “Unnecessary Farce” was also performed at North Coast Rep) is a talented writer who created a hilarious concept that is easy to buy into. “We do need to laugh about what’s going on right now, I think, politically, in some way,” he said. “Mostly about ourselves and how we elect our leaders.”
While he asserts the play is, at its core, a silly comedy, Williams said that it does have some real moments. “It’s based in a real kind of context … which lifts the humor even more, I think,” he said.
The show’s previews play from Feb. 19 to the Feb. 21 show at 2 p.m. The play will formally open on Feb. 21 and play until March 22. Tickets are $46 for previews, $52 for weeknights and Saturday matinees, $57 for Saturday nights and Sunday matinees, $52 for the March 11 matinee, and $46 for the Feb. 21 matinee.
Showtimes are 7 p.m. for Wednesdays, 8 p.m. for Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, 7 p.m. on Sundays. The Feb. 21 and March 11 matinees will play at 2 p.m., and there will be a special talkback with the cast and director on Feb. 28.