When the star of The Producers decides to play a U.S. president in a Broadway play written by David Mamet (November, opening January 17), is it any wonder he becomes a desperate con man? Mamet, whose last play was the 2005 courtroom farce Romance, deliberately got this new comedy up as early in the primary season as possible. But Nathan Lane's president, Charles H.P. Smith--a cash-poor incumbent on the verge of losing reelection--looks a lot more like a certain lame duck than like any of the current White House contenders. And Smith is in a venal class all his own, deploring the job as "too much stress, too little opportunity for theft," and lighting on the annual Thanksgiving-turkey pardon as a potential fund-raising scheme. Mamet may not have expected the primary season's latest surprises, along with all the expressions of hope (Change! Change! Change!) that make scandal-a-minute 2006 (amply referenced in November) seem like a long-ago nightmare. But then, he's got a surprisingly positive take on the political process--which he laid out for us, albeit in broad terms (just don't ask him to endorse a candidate).