Holland Taylor. (Photo credit: Daniel Rader)

Holland Taylor.
(Photo credit: Daniel Rader)

By: Darryl Reilly

“You arrived on our shores like The Beatles; they were a band,” “We are always negotiating,” and “218 is my favorite number!” are among the retorts Holland Taylor deliciously tosses off as Nancy Pelosi in playwright Mario Correa’s witty and absorbing two-character fantasia, N/A; it believably imagines Pelosi’s contentious relationship with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Generational and ideological clashes abound.

The Emmy Award-winning Ms. Taylor made her Broadway debut in 1965, and steadily accrued increasing major theater, television and screen credits. Here, coiffed and costumed to resemble the long-time Democratic Congressional leader, Taylor delivers a grand performance using her own distinctive honeyed vocal cadences, rather than attempting a Pelosi impression. It is a joy to experience Taylor’s luminous and seasoned stage presence during her depthful characterization. Holland is Pelosi, beautifully balancing humor and fierceness. On Your Feet! star Ana Villafañe’s charisma, sleek physicality and animation, accurately capture Ocasio-Cortez’s persona; youthful idealism is movingly articulated. Ms. Villafañe’s and Taylor’s marvelous histrionic teamwork puts N/A over as a thoughtful take on contemporary American politics.

Ana Villafañe. (Photo credit: Daniel Rader)

The Baltimore-born Nancy Pelosi’s father was a Maryland congressman and that city’s mayor. Pelosi was elected to Congress from San Francisco in 1987 at the age of 47. She became the Democratic minority leader in 2003; the first woman to lead a major party in either the House or Senate. She served as Speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011, and again from 2019 to 2023, before stepping down from leadership. She was regarded as a pragmatic centrist, a hard worker and for her ability to keep her caucus together to pass legislation, no matter how slim the Democrats’ majority. Queens community activist and bartender Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected to Congress at the age of 29 in 2018, having earlier defeated Pelosi’s 10-term incumbent ally Joe Crowley in a major upset for the Democratic nomination. Billed as AOC, she became known for her social media savvy and ultra-progressive beliefs. They are both still in Congress.

Mr. Correa’s simple yet rich scenario spans from just before the midterm election of 2018, when the Democrats retook the House of Representatives, to the midterm election of 2022, when they lost it. The January 6, 2021, insurrection is depicted through effectively minimal stagecraft with searing results. Correa’s superior dramatic writing pointedly renders this eventful epoch through his focused structure of short scenes laden with sharp dialogue; a small-scale panorama of recent U.S. history is enacted. A key device is that no one is actually named; we know who all these presented and referred to figures are, especially “that awful man” who was the president. Correa confidentially emulates acclaimed British dramatists Peter Shaffer’s device of two characters’ mutual antagonism and Peter Morgan’s commanding grasp of historical recreation, for a lively 75-minute battle of opposing wills amidst the passing scene.

Ana Villafañe and Holland Taylor. (Photo credit: Daniel Rader)

Director Diane Paulus’s snappy physical staging achieves visual verisimilitude: there are clean entrances and exits, the cast veers from strategically being in constant motion to dramatic stillness, and there are striking stage pictures. Myung Hee Cho’s spare Lucite-themed scenic design perfectly represents power offices with a museum-style dimension, and her luxurious costume design authentically duplicates Pelosi’s regal red skirt suit and Ocasio-Cortez’s stylish black ensemble. Lighting designer Mextly Couzin’s bathes the stage in shimmering and varying brightness while jolting blackouts punctuate scenes, all for optimum presentational effect. Sun Hee Kil and Germán Martínez’s sound design realizes music and effects with vigor. Projection designers POSSIBLE and Lisa Renkel’s crisp imagery of stark titles impart information and connotes the passage of time.

N/A is a strongly performed and stimulating entertainment.

N/A (through August 4, 2024)
Lincoln Center Theater
Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, 150 West 65th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, visit www.lct.org
Running time: 75 minutes with no intermission


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