“N/A” is a fantasia on national politics

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A woman is standing and wearing a pink business suit and a woman is sitting at a desk wearing a navy business suit.
"N/A" at Lincoln Center Theater (Photo by Daniel Rader)

N/A is a sharp and harshly witty play by Mario Correa about the relationship between two Congresswomen. One of them, N, is the first woman elected Speaker of the House; the other, A, is the youngest woman ever elected to the House. It is easy to make the mental leap to identify N with Nancy Pelosi and A with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

N/A is not a history play (although some dialogue is taken directly from the models for the characters). Instead, playwright Correa’s service as a Congressional aide and his knowledge of how Congress works create a meaty drama out of what could have been a bone-dry political treatise.

Correa’s two characters serve as representatives of different approaches to political strategy and philosophy, butting heads despite sharing values and objectives. N sees the job of politics as making legislation through the patient incremental work of building coalitions and making compromises to reach the number of votes needed to pass a bill in the House — then persuading the Senate to pass it and the President to sign it while working to retain Democratic control of both houses of Congress and the White House.

In contrast, A views the job as replacing the old, corruption-prone political system with a more progressive/liberal one advocating social justice, equality, and inclusion, making things better than one found them. She sweeps aside opposition with her firm belief in the ultimate, obvious rightness of her cause.

N/A is blessed to have three magnificently talented women connected to this production. Director Diane Paulus, a multiple award winner whose body of work runs the gamut from serious drama to musical comedy and opera, guides her cast through tumultuous events. As N, veteran actress Holland Taylor shines, showing us an older woman who has fought to attain a position of political power in the men’s club that was Congress.

Taylor’s N has a keen eye for talent and is insistent on passing down her hard-learned lessons on the ins and outs of lawmaking. She gets most of the sharpest, wittiest quips, and delivers them with the assurance that comes from decades of experience.

Taylor’s performance is met by that of Ana Villafañe as A, a young woman who cannot quite believe she has won — earned — her seat in the House. Her mind is on achieving the social activist goals that fueled her desire to run, but she hasn’t had time to figure out what her long-term goals are — or should be. The two women circle around their opposing points of view like planets circling the same star, never quite connecting even though their orbits intersect.

A woman is standing and is wearing a navy business suit with a white blouse.
“N/A” at Lincoln Center Theater (Photo by Daniel Rader)

Myung Hee Cho’s set is, in a way, a neutral ground, all cool grays and transparent plastic furniture, backed by floor-to-ceiling screens on which evocative projections designed by the design group POSSIBLE in conjunction with Lisa Renkel are displayed. Cho has also designed the costumes, with N in a bright cerise jacket and skirt and A in a dark suit jacket and pants. Mextly Couzin’s lighting design and Sun Hee Kil’s sound design help capture everything from the jubilation of N’s first session wielding the Speaker’s gavel to the terror of the January 6th invasion of the Capitol.

With N/A, Mario Correa, in his playwright’s notes in the playbill, said he was trying not to create a play “in which substantive disagreements between two of our country’s most influential leaders [were] reduced to a ‘fight’ between two women”. In this, he has succeeded.

To those who may think they know all about Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — what they stand for and what they hope to achieve — I urge you to make the trip to Lincoln Center and find yourself astonished and absorbed by N/A.

N/A is presented at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theatre in Lincoln Center through September 1st, 2024. For more information, or to purchase tickets, go to lct.org.  

Allen Neuner
Allen Neuner is the theater reviewer at Out in Jersey magazine. Jersey born and raised, Allen went to his first Broadway play in 1957 and has been deliriously in love with live theater ever since. Allen has been accepted into the American Theatre Critics Association, a professional organization of theatre journalists. He has been partnered to music reviewer Bill Realman Stella, with whom he is also deliriously in love, for over 20 years. They live in an over-cluttered house in Somerville.