Review: ‘The Trump Card’ at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Mike Daisey knew full well why we came out to see The Trump Card. We were out for “red meat.” We wanted to hear Mike Daisey tear Donald Trump to shreds. We wanted to see Mike kick his ass! And he did. Mike did what every full-blooded liberal is dying to decipher these days — how we got into this mess of political madness and what’s next. With gut-wrenching gallows humor that sublimates one’s pain into full-stop fun, The Trump Card is just what the doctor ordered for anyone who is sick and tired of Donald Trump and just won’t take it anymore.

Mike Daisey in 'The Trump Card.' Photo by Ursa Waz.
Mike Daisey in ‘The Trump Card.’ Photo by Ursa Waz.

Harvey Milk once said, “Politics is theater. It doesn’t matter if you win.  You make a statement. You say, ‘I’m here, pay attention to me’.” Mike takes his personal life and compares it to the theatrics of Trump’s political life. What results is a hilarious mash-up of politics and psychology, art and entertainment that’s both personal and transcendent.

Mike Daisey pays full attention to The Donald in a way that enlightens you to the psychological disorders of the man. He tells his truth about Trump’s tainted roots in a way that even Marvin Gaye could understand what’s going on. Directed by Isaac Butler, The Trump Card is really a psychological deep dive into the mindset of a man who has taken America by storm, just like the misogynistic beauty pageant that helped make him famous. Peppered with laugh-to-keep from-crying humor, The Trump Card trumps anything I have seen or heard about Donald Trump and it’s done with brutal candor, profound insight into the workings of the dangerously competent and comedic genius.

If you get turned on by Bill Maher’s puckish impudence and Michael Moore’s whistleblowing tattle-telling, then The Trump Card will definitely be your cup of tea. Mike Daisey has been called “the master storyteller” and “one of the finest solo performers of his generation” by the New York Times. I might add that Mike could make stand-up comedy his mainstay if his day job ever gets boring. He’s a funny guy.

Playwright, author, performer, and master of the monologue, Mike Daisey uses conscience to elucidate, provoke, entertain such that he’s also been called a “modern day Mark Twain and latter-day Orson Welles.” Isaac Butler who directed this show is also an author, whose first book, The World Only Spins Forward, is a history of Angels in America that’s scheduled to be published in 2018. Interestingly enough, the infamous Roy Cohn, Donald Trump’s most influential business trainer, is a key character in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America.

The Trump Card unfolds the phenomenon that is Donald Trump through Mike’s telling a story about a “Trump the Game” theme party he held at his home some years ago. “Trump the Game” is actually a board game created by Donald Trump in 1989 that you can still buy on Amazon. Mike describes it as “Monopoly for Dogs” and it’s played with dirty-dealing winner-take-all vengeance, just like Donald Trump. Mike’s monologue narrative is an expose of the primary relationships that shaped The Donald. But he also shares the story of his own would-be influencers like his grandfather, who was “allegedly racist” just like Fred Trump, Donald’s sociopathic slum lord father.

Manhattan lawyer Roy Cohn, Donald’s demonic mentor also helped create a businessman hell-bent on upping his father’s real estate empire and morphing it into a “classy” albeit corrupt, narcissistic Trump dynasty.  The Republican Party became the next takeover for this egomaniacal yet savvy operator. And the Republicans’ Southern Strategy of riling up socially marginalized, poor white folks became the perfect jump-off point for Trump to stoke the flames of populist rage with its racist, xenophobic, misogynistic burnt ground aftermath.

Mike tells it like it is and sets off enough F-word and N-word bombs to set your ears ringing. He spares no wrath in his descriptives about Trump; “hideous orange goblin”, “free floating aneurism” and “dystopic toad” are just a few of Mike’s milder terms to depict The Donald. But humor lends comic relief to Mike Daisey’s perspective on Donald Trump and the Republic Party enough to calm the nerves and to hear the truth and not be totally depressed by it. And to laugh at it instead. It was Mike Daisey’s truth, no doubt, but also the audience’s considering its continually responsive laughter and approving applause. I personally loved this show. It soothed frustrations about a time in US history and the candidacy of a presidential nominee that boggle the mind.

Catharsis, according to Webster, is “purification or purgation of the emotions (as pity and fear) primarily through the arts.” Mike Daisey’s brilliant solo artistry in The Trump Card cathartically releases one’s pent-up frustrations, pity and fear about the current political climate in the US and turns one’s pain into a very pleasurable evening at the theater.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company’s The Trump Card cannot be missed!

Running Time: One hour and forty-minutes, with no intermission.


The Trump the Card plays through August 7, 2016 at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company –  641 D Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 393-3939, or purchase them online.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1547.gif


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