The Outsider Review – On the Campaign Trail

Ensemble Cast of THE OUTSIDER - Photo by Kayte Deioma
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Election year certainly uncovers some strange bedfellows – with one of the strangest (and funniest) depicted in THE OUTSIDER, an uproarious and frighteningly timely satire. Originally a novel by actor/writer Paul Slade Smith, THE OUTSIDER was adapted by the author for stage and first produced in New Jersey – quickly followed by journeys across the U.S., including Washington DC (what could be more appropriate?) and Houston. In 2023, THE OUTSIDER received two Helen Hayes awards. Finally, in 2024, THE OUTSIDER makes its Los Angeles premiere in Long Beach at the International City Theatre.

Stephen Rockwell and Nikhil Pai – Photo by Kayte Deioma

The time of now, and the place is the Governor’s office in a small state. When political scandal unseats the Governor, Ned Newley (Stephen Rockell), the Lieutenant Governor, finds himself promoted to a job he doesn’t want. After all, Newley is terrified of public speaking and he has absolutely no political savvy at all; besides, his poll numbers are in the toilet. This is a man who fades into the woodwork and likes it that way. His expertise appears to bloom only in the shadows. When a special election for Governor looms, Newley unexpectedly finds himself championed by Arthur Vance (Jonathan Bray), a celebrity CNN commentator who is sure that the public is ready, willing, and able to elect a man they see as incompetent but “just like them.”

Susan Huckle, Ntalie Storrs, and Jonathan Bray – Photo by Kayte Deioma

Against the sage advice of Dave Riley (Nikhil Pai), his Chief of Staff – and only remaining staff member – Newley suddenly finds himself on the campaign trail. Soon expert pollster Paige Caldwell (Natalie Storrs) and diddly office temp Louise Peakes (Susan Huckle) join the possibly sinking ship’s crew. When a disastrous live interview by TV reporter Rachel Parsons (Taylor Popoola) and cameraman A.C. Petersen (Thomas Anawalt) turns out to actually elevate Newley’s poll numbers, the game is on – in earnest.

Stephen Rockell and Susan Huckle – Photo by Kayte Deioma

Skilled director Brian Schnipper says it all: “The play is whip-smart and brilliantly funny…I laughed out loud the entire time I was reading it…this isn’t a play about left versus right or conservatives versus liberals. It’s a play about America’s distrust of politicians and our need for them to be relatable – no matter what the cost.” Schnipper helms the tale brilliantly with the able assistance of the talented ensemble cast. Everyone on stage seems to “get it,” and the audience certainly does as well. This is a hilarious twist on the American voting public – and on the people “behind the scenes.” The laugh-a-minute script will keep the audience involved and rooting for someone – or maybe not.

Ensemble Cast of THE OUTSIDER – Photo by Kayte Deioma

Not to be outdone, John Patrick’s scenic design is catchy and, let’s face it, what we all expect of a Governor’s office. Crystal R. Shomph’s lighting, Dave Mickey’s sound, and Claire Fraser’s costumes fit right in to make the satire feel dreadfully authentic. Especially in an election year, this is a must-see for everyone, active voters or not. Get ready to laugh – and maybe wince a little too.

Taylor Popoola, Thomas Anawalt, Nikhil Pai, Natalie Storrs, Jonathan Bray, Susan Huckle, Stephen Rockwell, and artistic director/producer caryn desai at the talkback after the show – Photo by Elaine L. Mura

THE OUTSIDER runs through June 30, 2024, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The International City Theatre is in the Beverly O’Neill Theatre, part of the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, 330 East Seaside Way, Long Beach, CA 90802. Tickets are $49 (Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays) and $52 (Sunday matinees). For information and reservations, call 562-436-4610 or go online.


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