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REVIEW: Theatre Group premieres new entertaining and witty comedy

The Channels Arts Pages | CRITICAL REVIEW
Ben Crop
Justin Stark, Tiffany Story, Grace Wilson and Nicholis Sheley in The Theatre Group at SBCC’s production of THE OUTSIDER by Paul Slade Smith, April 10-27, 2024, Jurkowitz Theatre, SBCC West Campus. Photo credit: Ben Crop

Patriotic-colored blue walls sit plastered on the set of The Theatre Group at City College’s latest production, “The Outsider,” a political comedy that follows the rise of a mild-mannered, socially awkward bureaucrat named Ned Newley who finds himself in the position of governor. 

This triumph of political satire offers a humorous, witty and thought-provoking look at the inner workings of government and those who are a part of it. Although, at times, the dialogue comes off as a bit too predictable, the narrative is cohesive, and embodies a group of memorable characters navigating the world of politics.

Upon entering the Jurkowitz Theatre, my eyes were immediately drawn to the blindingly blue set walls that enclose the space of Ned Newley’s office. Once I realized the entirety of the play would take place in this one singular room, I believed I would be so focused on the electric blue walls that the content of the play would lose me.

I turned out to be wrong.

At the heart of the story, Ned Newley is an inexperienced and lovable protagonist who is just as effortlessly charming as he is nowhere fit to hold the position of governor. The narrative dominantly revolves around the fact that Newley is the stereotypical “fish out of water” character, hoping to somehow navigate the mysterious sea of politics and public image.

Newley is by far one of the most lovable characters, especially in comparison to Arthur Vance, a CNN reporter who attempts to exploit Newleys character publicly for his own personal gain. It remains notable, however, that although Newley is lovable, the most effortlessly funny character who never once failed to make the audience laugh the loudest is Newley’s newly hired press secretary, Louise Peaks.

Although the play does a wonderful job of creating conflict between Newley and Vance or emotional moments among other characters, Louise Peaks’ witty retort and unwavering support for Newly never fails to make the audience laugh.

Louise Peaks is an older woman who is no smarter than Newley himself. She plays a ditsy, bubbly woman whose clueless personality plays into the emotions of the audience, regardless of the range of ages found within the crowd.

I found myself questioning some of the general jokes and dialogue throughout the play, noticing the predominantly older audience, and realizing this play is more geared toward middle-to-late-aged adults. I noticed the majority of blatant jokes throughout the play prompted roaring laughter from the adults in the audience, whereas the few students who attended did not let out a chuckle. 

The humor, while occasionally sharp, was slightly too predictable. The play heavily relies on cliches and stereotypes within the political realm, which prompted many laughs from the audience, but I found it to be quickly repetitive. I appreciate that the reliance on stereotypes and cliches is essential to the political element of the production.

Despite this, Louise Peaks’ character remained a beacon of light that never failed to make me, at the very least, crack a smile. 

Nonetheless, the cast made up a group of memorable characters, each with their own odd quirks, questionable intentions, and ability to offer a satirical lens when examining contemporary political culture. The dialogue throughout the film consistently offered laugh-out-loud moments for the audience while also prompting deeper reflection on the nature of authenticity in the world of politics.

Showings for “The Outsider” will continue until April 27, performances from Wednesday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 2 p.m., with exception to the showings on Saturday April 20 and 27, which will start at 2 p.m. The Sunday April 14 performance at 2 p.m. will be live-captioned for the hearing-impaired.

Prices:  Previews April 10 & 11,  $18 general/$15 Seniors (age 62 or older)/$10 students. Tickets are available through The Theatre Group on City College’s website, with prices ranging from $14 to $26 for students and general audiences.

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