‘N/A’ Off Broadway Review: Nancy Pelosi Wipes the House Floor With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Holland Taylor and Ana Villafañe plays high-profile Representatives in Mario Correa’s new play

Ana Villafane and Holland Taylor in "N/A" Off Broadway (Credit: Daniel Rader)
Ana Villafañe and Holland Taylor in "N/A" Off Broadway (Credit: Daniel Rader)

It hasn’t been a good week for the Squad.

On Tuesday, U.S. Representative Jamal Bowman (D-NY) lost his primary bid to stay in the House. And on Thursday, another member of the progressive Squad took a big hit. Mario Correa’s play “N/A” had its world premiere at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center, and the character named A, which stands for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, loses big time to the character named N, which stands for Nancy Pelosi.

Correa gives all of his best zingers, and there are a lot of them, to N(ancy), and Holland Taylor knows just what to do with them. Hers is a master class in stand-up comedy, because she doesn’t make the very funny one-liners come off as zingers. They are simply part of her character’s thick and well-honed armor. With her humor blazing, she wipes the House floor with A(lexandria), who, as played by Ana Villafañe, comes off as a pompous and humorless Jimmy Stewart from “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.”

The battle is uneven to the extreme as the old, experienced and very pragmatic House Speaker attempts to give a master class in politics to the young, inexperienced and very idealistic Representative from Queens and the Bronx. After 30 minutes of this 80-minute play, you may find yourself wondering when the D.C. ground will shift. When will the out-matched A(lexandria) finally get her big moment to score a point or two against the no-nonsense N(ancy).

Taylor keeps her feet planted on solid ground; Villafañe spouts idealistic slogans about the Green New Deal and defunding ICE that will decimate the Democrats’ majority in the House. And each argument ends (and often begins) with Taylor getting the laugh. There’s really no other way to play the text, and under Diane Paulus’ direction, “N/A” soon emerges as a lopsided comedy act, with the deadly serious A(lexandria) having to set up alpha comic N(ancy), who hogs the spotlight.

Late in “N/A,” there is a slight leveling of the field when the U.S. capitol is stormed by violent Donald Trump supporters and it triggers old, horrible memories in A(lexandria), who promptly posts online about it. N(ancy) finally calls her adversary “brave,” but in the end, good jokes always scores more points with an audience than tears from the victim.


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