'N/A' review — Holland Taylor and Ana Villafañe debate politics and power

Read our review of N/A off Broadway, a new play starring Holland Taylor and Ana Villafañe as politicians inspired by Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Playwright Mario Correa's approach to N/A, a world-premiere drama at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater about the ideological conflicts between two large-looming Congresswomen, feels like that of a politician's speechwriter. The task is to carefully curate an image of his subjects that's commanding and true — perhaps with the occasional imperfection or vulnerability so as to be human, but making sure they're someone you can root for.

Thus are his portraits of "N" (Holland Taylor) and "A" (Ana Villafañe), immediately obvious stand-ins for Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as they debate in the former's office.

Correa deftly advances his goal with spirited, entertaining writing. A few lines sound like they truly were written for a speech ("This policy of family separation is unconscionable. And as Speaker, I will do everything in my power to put an end to it," N declares), but he makes up for them with a stream of zingers. N gets most of those, too: "I birthed five children in six years. I haven’t slept since 1964," she deadpanned to uproarious laughter at my performance.

These bits suggest bias on Correa's part, slightly in favor of N and her long career, skating over the character's apparent interest in power merely for power's sake. A exhibits Ocasio-Cortez's passion for power as a means for justice, but minus some of her affability. (That is no slight to Villafañe, who delivers a stellar performance, as does Holland.) Nonetheless, AOC supporters will likely feel empowered by her portrayal here, and likewise for Pelosi's.

That's where N/A slightly falters: It seems more likely to reinforce people's existing alliances than encourage them to really consider other perspectives. The play feels tailor-made, and -timed, for one express purpose: Get out the vote. Remind its likely audience of urban liberals that divisions within their party shouldn't drive them out of it. The show was supposed to open two days before Tuesday's primaries, after all — though it's still apt that it now coincides with a presidential debate.

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N/A summary

N/A's sole characters are N, a long-serving Democratic Congresswoman and the first-ever female Speaker of the House, and A, the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Taking place entirely in N's office, the play sees the two women — one older and more reserved; the other more outspoken and progressive — fiercely clash over the function of their jobs, the state of their party, and the future of American democracy.

Though Correa's script is fictional, it is based on real people and events. N and A represent Nancy Pelosi and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the play is seemingly inspired by a private 2019 meeting they had after publicly criticizing each other.

Playwright Correa was a Congressional aide in the '90s before he became a writer, his time on Capitol Hill overlapping with Pelosi's early years in Congress.

What to expect at N/A

In 80 short minutes, N/A speeds through four eventful years of American politics. The play unfolds over multiple conversations about events that took place between 2019 (when Ocasio-Cortez was elected) and 2023 (when Pelosi resigned as House Speaker), including the election of Joe Biden, the January 6 attack on the Capitol, and a 2019 dispute among Congress over funding sent to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Like transitions in political leadership, the transitions between scenes vary. Some are smooth and seamless. Some are sudden and jarring. But in both cases — thanks to bold, blaring onscreen projections (designer Yee Eun Nam) — they're unignorable.

Also unignorable: The credit due to casting agent Will Cantler of Telsey & Co. With added help from Myung Hee Cho's costumes, Taylor and Villafañe are dead ringers for the Congresswomen.

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What audiences are saying about N/A

At the time of publication, N/A has an audience approval rating of 88% (out of 104 ratings) on Show-Score. Audiences particularly praised the sharp performances of Taylor and Villafañe.

  • "See it if you love the soaring speeches in [the TV show] The West Wing." - Show-Score user Bruce 6
  • "This is a funny, clever two-hander that misses the opportunity to make some deep and resonant points about how people on the same side often aren't. It goes for laughs a little too often, and the darker moments get a little lost as a result." - Show-Score user Jeff 226
  • "Both actresses are in their top games, but the script needs more work. It currently favors N and makes A look like a naive progressive." - Show-Score user kangajackson
  • "See it if you are curious about the nuances of the Democratic party and want to see two really strong performances of two key women politicians." - Show-Score user Medium Alison

Read more audience reviews of N/A on Show-Score.

Who should see N/A

  • Political junkies who tune into every debate, interview, and bit of live coverage of current events will enjoy seeing what essentially amounts to a lively political debate on stage.
  • Fans of TV shows like Veep and The West Wing, which combine political drama with humor, will enjoy this play that is similar in tone.
  • Fans of either or both actors' past work — such as Taylor's Emmy-winning performance on The Practice or Villafañe's exuberant Broadway debut as Gloria Estefan in On Your Feet! — will relish the opportunity to see their skills up close. Even if you're not a fan yet, come to the show and you will be.

Learn more about N/A off Broadway

Even though the play doesn't add much new nuance to current political conversations, N/A's sharp writing and spot-on performances make it worthwhile entertainment. Real life always makes for the best drama, after all.

Learn more and get N/A tickets on New York Theatre Guide. N/A is at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater through August 4.

Photo credit: Holland Taylor and Ana Villafañe in N/A off Broadway. (Photos by Daniel Rader)

Originally published on

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