Ned Newley is brilliant in his own way. He understands everything about the inner workings of his state’s government. He can balance the budget while letting teachers keep their jobs, pave the roads, and keep them plowed when it snows in the winter. And he does it all from the privacy of his tiny little office as the lieutenant governor, which is just how he likes it. Ned is quiet to the point of being awkward and could think of nothing worse than having to appear on television. Which is exactly what happens when his boss, the governor, is forced to resign in a sex scandal, pushing Ned directly into the spotlight, under which he promptly wilts, leaving his chief of staff Dave Riley scrambling to clean up after the newly minted governor who wants to be anything but.
Thus begins the hilarious story of The Outsider, a play by Paul Slade Smith, which couldn’t possibly be more timely. At times laugh out loud funny—even the crew were laughing to the point of tears a couple of times—and at other times both poignant and thought-provoking, the good people at the Actors Guild of Parkersburg have another winner on their hands. Charlie Matthews is brilliantly inept as Ned Newley, as is Joe Reeves as Ned’s beleaguered chief of staff. The thing that sets both Ned and Dave apart from the average politician and political staff member is the fact that they are both truly good people who went into politics because they wanted to serve the public. And it doesn’t take long for the audience to really start rooting for Ned and Dave.
Dave quickly hires an old rival in the quick-witted Paige Caldwell, beautifully portrayed by Jaliyah Townsend. Paige is savvy and a little cynical, making her a true counterpoint to the still-unjaded Dave. But they don’t even have a secretary—everyone who worked for the previous governor was forced to resign with him—so Dave calls HR for a temp, and he gets a doozy. Julie Keller might well steal the show as the daffy, dimwitted Louise Peakes. She can’t make coffee, she can’t work the phones, and she can’t remember names. She probably couldn’t remember where she parked, but it seems inconceivable that Louise could ever have gotten her license.
Equally terrific are Seth Fearnow, Betty Dotson, and Mike Dotson. Fearnow is Arthur Vance, a political operative who sees Ned’s disastrous swearing-in ceremony online and hops on the next plane to run the governor’s campaign in what everyone sees as an inevitable recall election. Betty Dotson portrays Rachel Parsons, a TV reporter who has the face of an on-air personality but the heart of a true journalist, and Mike Dotson is her stoic, world-weary cameraman, A. C. Peterson.
It’s a real ensemble performance and every member of the cast has a chance to shine. Possibly the best part of the play, though, is that it makes fun of the political process while actually giving the audience a little bit of hope that it can actually be fixed. So, suffice it to say, you should definitely get your tickets, so to speak. The show will be performed online as have the Guild’s previous few shows, through Broadway on Demand. The cost is $18 per device, with a small access fee added. To purchase your tickets, you can call the box office at 304-485-1300, or go to the guild’s website. You’ll be glad you did!