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N/A

Delightfully witty new political play abut the contentious relationship between the first woman Speaker of the House and the youngest woman elected to Congress.

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Ana Villafañe and Holland Taylor in a scene from Mario Correa’s “N/A” at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center (Photo credit: Daniel Rader)

In recent years of federal elections, Gore Vidal’s The Best Man has been revived on Broadway, a story of the rivalry between two men for the presidency. In this election year we have a delightfully witty new political play N/A by Mario Correa, a four hander about the conflict between two women in the House of Representatives, a world premiere presented at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, but not a Lincoln Center production. Although the author does not admit to basing the roles on any one in particular, both title and the costuming of stars Holland Taylor and Ana Villafañe suggest otherwise.

The play takes place between 2018 and 2022, the years when Nancy Pelosi became the first woman Speaker of the House for the second time, and second in line after the president, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the youngest woman elected to Congress. Although the characters are anonymously named N and A, Taylor wears Pelosi’s iconic red suit and golden Mace of the United States House of Representatives brooch and Villafañe wears AOC’s signature all-day liquid Beso red lipstick and has her typical hairdos. The title and character names may be that as the play is fictional with invented conversations of living people, it was thought better not to name the characters too specifically.

Correa who for many years worked for Congresswoman Constance A. Morella knows his way around government and his characters are very convincing. The casting of Diane Paulus’ production is superb and Taylor and Villafañe make excellent sparring partners. The encounters which take place mainly in N’s congressional office that of first Minority Leader and then later Speaker of the House (the same set by Myung Hee Cho) include fast-paced repartee, quips, retorts and wordplay, all worth listening to. You are required to listen intently as the dialogue is fast paced and rapid fire.

When we meet them A has just won her first primary in the Bronx and Queens, defeating the Democratic Party candidate that N has supported. In the course of the five scenes of the play, we next meet them when N needs A’s vote to regain the Speakership, while the last scene takes place four years later when the Republicans have regained the House and N is packing up her office, having stepped down from her position as party leader.

Holland Taylor and Ana Villafañe in a scene from Mario Correa’s “N/A” at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center (Photo credit: Daniel Rader)

N/A is a play of ideas: N holds the belief that it is her job to make change by getting laws passed, while A believes it is her job to make inroads in the injustices and smash traditions that stand in her way. When A reels off her to-do list (the Green New Deal, the Southern border, universal health care, etc.), N points out that she believes in all of those goals but she is realistic about what she can get passed with a Republican opposition in both Congress and the presidency. She reminds A that Anger may have gotten her into Congress but “The moment you walk into that Chamber and take your oath of office, the only thing that matters is results.” A accuses N of having gotten by on white privilege, but N points out as they are both women in an almost all-male bastion this does not apply.

Both women have more in common that they realize: they are both hungry for change, both have been inspired by their mothers, and both consider themselves outsiders, A as she is Puerto Rican in a mostly white House, and N who as a woman was in the minority when she entered Congress. When A accused N of having gotten ahead due to nepotism as her father was in Congress before her, N points out that her father had been out of office 40 years when she ran for government 3,000 miles away (using her married name, and not her father’s reputation.) A’s motto is “Más que menos,” leave everything better than you found it. By the end, N is quoting back to her that very statement.

In Taylor’s hands, the smart retorts come swiftly and surely. Her dry wit is icy cool:

N: No-one sleeps the first time they win.

A: Did you?

N: I birthed five children in six years. I haven’t slept since 1964.

Warning A that she has a big job ahead of her, N points out the difficultly of the work that has to be done.

N: Thank you for your courage to run. This is not for the faint of heart.

A: You make this sound like a horror movie.

N: Horror movies end.

Ana Villafañe and Holland Taylor in a scene from Mario Correa’s “N/A” at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center (Photo credit: Daniel Rader)

Villafañe holds up her side of the equation becoming more assured as the years pass. Ironically, both women exude both arrogance and dogmatism – both feeling that are right at every given moment and not understanding why the other one does not agree with her ideas. An amusing moment takes place when A refuses to understand that N has ended their first interview as Minority Leader having found out what she wanted to know.

Cho’s unit setting is rather a bland design as the walls and floor are grey and the few pieces of furniture are clear Lucite. However, they do make the actresses and costumes stand out. While her costumes (red for Taylor, black for Villafañe) are suitable, the fact they never change in the course of the play is somewhat distracting though four years go by. Obviously the problem was that the actresses are almost never off stage, but had documentary footage been used between the scenes, they would have had time to make changes. The uncredited hair design makes the two actresses look amazing like their prototypes. Aside from N’s gavel which is prominently displayed in a Lucite case in her office, the other major prop is A’s smart phone which she is never without.

Mario Correa’s N/A is provocative and witty offering a private view rarely seen. It is a clever reconstruction of private events that are mainly unknown to the public. Under Diane Paulus’ assured direction, both Holland Taylor and Ana Villafañe shine throughout even when one or the other is winning. This is the sort of play we need in an election year – or any other. N/A demonstrates that politics on the American stage can be an exciting topic.

N/A (through August 4, 2025)

Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, at Lincoln Center, 150 W. 65th Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call Telecharge at 212-239-6200 or visit http://www.NAThePlay.com

Running time: 80 minutes without an intermission

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About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (995 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

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