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July 5, 2024
How To Make Change
Photo by Daniel Rader

I had a stressful week and was really hoping to see a lighthearted play, certainly not one about politics. However, “N/A,” the new play by Mario Correa, was next in the queue. Correa comes to the theater with a background in politics having been a longtime aide to Congresswoman Constance A. Morella.

For his subjects, he chose two distinctive female politicians, both influential Democrats but generationally and philosophically apart. He explains that it was his intent to depict a ‘battle of ideas’ not a disagreement between the two women. He wants to show how their different philosophies put them at odds.

Despite Correa’s Playwright’s Note in The Playbill, the audience expects to see an encounter between Nancy Pelosi (played with confidence, wit and intelligence by Holland Taylor) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, familiarly known as AOC (portrayed by Ana Villafane with energy, liveliness and rapidfire speed).

I steeled myself for heavy political dialogue but was pleasantly surprised by how much humor there is in “N/A.” N has most of the amusing lines and Taylor delivers them with assurance. The senior stateswoman has been in politics for many years and understands what it took for women to be in the House. When she first was elected, there were few women and no women’s bathrooms. When she speaks, it is with the cockiness of experience. A is always earnest and serious. Her dialogue is delivered quickly and passionately.

Although their goals and aims are the same, the women are divided. N sees herself as the teacher whereas A feels that the older woman has become part of the machine.

Most of the audience at the matinee I attended was older and I wonder if the humor, delivered by N, worked so successfully because the audience identified more with her, especially when she referred to her children. At one point, she is on the phone with a grandchild explaining why it’s okay for the Eleanor Roosevelt Barbie to be too tall for Barbie’s car. She would have been driven. Who else would buy a grandchild an Eleanor Roosevelt Barbie?

Deftly directed by Diane Paulus, the pacing illustrates the age difference between the two representatives. N tries to explain the way politics works while A wants immediate action and change. The show is reminiscent of the new musical “Suffs” that tells of women struggling to get the vote, even willing to go to jail and stage a hunger strike. Alice Paul, portrayed by Shaina Taub is the young impatient one while Jen Collella is the "old guard" of suffrage, Carrie Chapman. who feels they must be patient and work through the system.

The play, a special event at Lincoln Center’s Mitzi Newhouse Theater, runs a swift 90 minutes.There are several scenes, most of which occur in N’s office with transparent-lucite furnishings (Scenic & costume design by Myung Hee Cho).

“N/A” is another illustration of the divisiveness in politics today: not only between Democrats and Republicans, and men and women but also novice and experienced. Even though the goals may be the same, the methods vary widely and this show reminds us why.

Lincoln Center
Mitzi Newhouse Theater
150 West 65Th
New York NY

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Written by: Elyse Trevers
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