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The Outsider offers political satire with an optimistic bent

The Outsider, running at St. Luke’s Church Hall through June 23, is regarded as a comedic riff on the rise of former U.S. President Donald Trump.
Mitch Barnes, left, and Michael Rodgers star in The Outsider. BEVERLY VAN DURTEN-BLAIS


Where: St. Luke’s Church Hall, 3821 Cedar Hill Cross Rd.
When: Through June 23
Tickets: $20.50 from

Politics has always been great fodder for fictional creations, especially in film, where everything from Robert Redford’s The Candidate to Warren Beatty’s Bulworth turned political satire into high art.

Theatre has fewer comparables, which is what makes playwright Paul Slade Smith’s The Outsider such a fresh and relevant construct. The play follows Ned Newley, a shy, off-the-radar politician who has recently been given the job of governor, following the ouster of his unlikable, womanizing predecessor. He falls under the guidance of a political consultant — the outsider of the title — who is direct from The White House, and who sees the potential of a re-brand, despite Newley’s inexperience and aversion to the spotlight.

Inspired lunacy is the result, with real-life parallels in practically every scene.

“Contemporary political comedians are usually a bit vicious and partisan, but this has a more palatable lampoonery,” said Tony Cain, who is directing The Outsider for St. Luke’s Players. “[Smith] makes fun of politics and the absurdity of the political arena, almost to the point where it is theatre of the absurd.”

The play has come to be regarded as a riff on the circus-like political soup brought to life by Donald Trump, even though it premiered in 2015, one year prior to him being elected U.S. president. The comparisons are unmistakable, however. “This is current — this is happening right now,” Cain said. “And the way it is being put across, the things some of the characters say, that is what’s going on in the U.S.”

Newley (who is played in this production by Mitch Barnes) is surrounded by a range of effective and semi-effective collaborators, another accurate reflection of politics on both sides of the border. Nothing is overtly heavy-handed, however, which is what gives the play its heart. It’s not acidic, or even judgmental. The audience grows to appreciate the central character, who becomes more sympathetic as the play moves forward, Cain said.

“In the end, the plays pays tribute to the honest and capable politicians out there who have a genuine desire to good work for the people. It’s about a desirable situation, with a good, honest, capable politician who can take it forward and work for the people, and listen to the people.”

When the characters realize either their ineptitude or promise, The Outsider plays like a political fantasy at points, given the suggestion that an average person who cares about people could win the popular vote, Cain said. “There’s a nice underlying message in there, for us to think about.”

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