Briefly Noted: ‘The Outsider’ at Paper Mill Playhouse – Theater Review

By Jonathan Spira on 9 February 2018
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Ponder the question, “what is the role of government?” In brief, a political scientist might explain that it exists to accomplish, as a group, that which individuals alone cannot. This would include building infrastructure, such as roads that connect people and cities, maintaining that infrastructure such as maintaining and keeping the roads clear, providing schools, and establishing a safety net for the less fortunate. Do the people want someone who understands such matters, or do they want a politician “just like us”?

These are the issues that concern Governor Ned Newley (Lenny Wolpe), a policy wonk who landed in the governor’s mansion after a sex scandal resulted in his predecessor’s resignation. The governor, unfortunately, is more comfortable with figures and budgets than the limelight, and starts off his term with a swearing-in ceremony where no one is actually sure if he actually repeated the oath of office.

Welcome to “The Outsider,” a comedy making its East Coast premiere at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. Who knew politics could be so funny?

To say the governor is camera shy would be an understatement. Indeed, he’s shy period and people frighten him. His chief of staff, Dave (Manoel Felciano), who always supported honest politicians and never actually won an election, finds himself in over his head, and brings in additional staff including a pollster right out of the “West Wing,” Paige (Julia Duffy), who in turn brings in a slick political consultant, Arthur Vance (Burt Moses).

Another new staffer is Louise Peaks (Erin Noel Grennan), a temp whose role is somewhere between Tina Fey playing Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live” and Mrs. Wiggins on the “Carol Burnett Show.”

Side-splitting comedy ensues.

The audience barely pauses to gasp for air as it laughs and chuckles through the two hour 30 minute play. In an age where politics is something more likely to make people cry than laugh, the comic relief provided by “The Outsider” is a reminder that government has a purpose and it makes a difference who holds elected office.

THE DETAILS

The Outsider
Paper Mill Playhouse
22 Brookside Drive
Millburn, N.J. 07041
Runtime: Two hours and 30 min.
www.papermill.org

(Photo: Accura Media Group)

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