Monday, September 19, 2016

This good Trump idea is trumped by production

Kevin Bordi in Trump the King (D. Hastings)
Trump the King or POTUS Drumph
Theater Schmeater
Through October 15, 2016

Trump the King or POTUS Drumph had a subtitle, when it was announced by Theater Schmeater, that seems to have been subsequently dropped: Another Sh**ty Adaptation of Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Roi Which May or May Not Resonate with a Contemporary American Audience. This subtitle certainly augments the idea of the production at hand.

Adapted by Nick Edwards, an actor sometimes found on the Schmee stage and others around town, this play completely skewers the life of one Donnoh Trump, who is “orange.” All the names and associations of characters in this ensemble-scurrying play are smartly altered so as not to be confused with reality. Examples are: Candanida, not to be confused with the real Canada, Vananana, not to be confused with the real Ivana Trump, Koranistas, not to be confused with any real Muslims. You’ll meet Justin the True of Candanida, and the daughters of Nobama, too.

Originally opening and closing on December 10, 1896, Jarry’s play was so wild, bizarre and comic, overturning cultural rules and conventions, that it is now seen as a precursor to the Theatre of the Absurd. It focused on Ubu, who becomes king by leading a revolution and killing the King of Poland. Ubu begins killing the population and taking their money. There is revolution.

Ubu escapes to Russia, where he gets the Tsar to declare war on Ubu. As Ubu heads out to confront the invading Russians, his wife tries to steal money that Ubu has stashed in the palace. Ubu defeats the Russians and also gets attacked by a bear. Ubu is attacked by Bougrelas, the crown prince, and knocks down the attacker with the body of the dead bear, after which he and his wife flee to France, which ends the play. 

That is the original plot (with editing) which is transformed instead into a sort of “life of Trump,” here, where Jackie Pomeroy plays Trump’s father who teaches him bigotry, treats him like dirt, and generally molds him into the man we know today. The single most important aspect to pulling this off is a good “Trump impression” and Kevin Bordi trumps it! He lip-pouts and squints and uses signature physical gestures that greatly capture the politician/reality star.

Mainly, this is about a guy who believes he can take whatever he wants, which really is power, prestige and riches. Edwards has translated this into the Trump mania with good effect, script-wise. There are some terrifically funny, pertinent ideas in this script, if you can listen hard enough to find them.

Part of the difficulty in hearing the funny stuff is the volume that the enthusiastic ensemble uses to shout their dialogue. That obscures their lines, as well as their diction. Sometimes, the cast members just swallow their diction, even when quiet.

The effort is chaotic, sometimes beyond despair, though every once in a while there is a really good moment that brings the production back from the brink of ruin. Emma Wilkinson, newer to Seattle stages, shows great versatility and is compelling, watchable and funny.

There are many people in Seattle who want to laugh at Trump. Some of this is quite possible in this production. It’s a smart idea. It deserves more care to pull it off.

For more information, go to www.schmeater.org or call 206-324-5801.