A dark theory of Trump, from one performer to another

08.07.16
Mike Daisey
The Washington Post

"The Trump Card," the latest work by the monologist Mike Daisey, begins and ends with an unprintable word. After they settle into their seats, the members of Daisey's audience are told that they are "f---ed." (There's an implication that we knew this already.) After two or so hours of a performance that dives and bobs from Daisey's childhood to the legal career of Roy Cohn and the latest Donald Trump outrage, Daisey shares the moral: Democracy is imperiled when people say "f--- it." (There's an implication that we know this, too.)

Profanity has played a role throughout Daisey's career, but in "The Trump Card" it carries a sort of profundity. More than ever before, Daisey has a subject he can inhabit. He has been delivering movie-length monologues off a few yellow pages of notes for 15 years, and now someone is running for president using apparently the same tactic. Trump, Daisey explains, is a "performer" who befuddles journalists and intellectuals but makes perfect sense to artists. "He has a performer's card and he is abusing the s--- out of it," Daisey says.

Daisey performed and honed "The Trump Card" all week at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre; he will soon take it back to New York, then make the text free for anyone to perform. (The Washington Post previously reviewed an early version of the show.) His audience on Thursday night was rapt and uncomfortable. There were sharp intakes of breath — the universal sound of "can you believe that?" — when Daisey revealed particularly ugly facts about the Trump family; there was audible shifting in chairs when Daisey asked liberals why they did not see Trump coming. Afterward, a few people could be heard complaining that Daisey ran 40 minutes over the scheduled time. None of those people had walked out.

That was probably because of the momentum of the show, which makes up for a small amount of slack. Like every Daisey monologue, "The Trump Card" begins with a personal story — in this case, how Daisey was like the rest of us and viewed Trump's presidential campaign as enough of a joke to stage a party around Trump's clunker of a board game. It's a hysterical riff, in which the game is labeled "Monopoly for dogs" and the power of the "Trump die" is explained in deadpan terms. The six-sided die contains a T instead of the number 6; if a player lands a T, he gets to steal whatever he wants. Says it all, doesn't it?
 
Read the rest of the review here