Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

The Trump Card
Stray Cat Theatre
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of South Pacific and Rock the Presidents


Ron May
Photo by John Groseclose
In 2010, American monologist Mike Daisey gained fame and prominence with his one man show The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, which traced the rise of Apple and Steve Jobs, our fascination with technology, and how many of these products are made in China under harsh work environments. Daisey's latest monologue, The Trump Card, is just as riveting as his earlier piece as it focuses on the rise of Donald Trump's political career. Stray Cat Theatre presents the Arizona premiere of Daisey's thought-provoking piece with an enthralling performance by Ron May.

Trump Card is a fairly straightforward journey centered on both Trump's life and how he managed to become a presidential nominee. It touches on his racist father and his relationship with Roy Cohn, who served as his lawyer for many years, and how Trump learned his allegedly dirty business practices from those two men. He also talks about how Trump first built up his real estate business before making the Trump brand and image his main focus. While the piece is very much anti-Trump, Daisey can't help but be enamored with how competent Trump is at his job of selling the image of Donald Trump, though he says you need to turn off the ethics and moral parts of your brain in order to truly be captivated by him.

It is framed by Daisey's story about a game night he hosted where his guests played "Trump: The Board Game" and he served Trump steaks and Trump water. Daisey interjects personal stories about his relatives that help make the piece somewhat more relatable than The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, as almost every one of us has a racist relative or a huge Trump supporter somewhere in our family tree. At times these stories become tangents that meander a bit before coming back to focus on Trump. It should be noted that Stray Cat is presenting a shortened 90-minute adaptation of Daisey's piece, and a discussion with May revealed that there were even more of these tangents in the original unedited version of the monologue.

As to how Trump managed to become the political figure that he is, Daisey talks about our fascination with reality TV and entertainment and points at Sarah Palin being chosen as John McCain's running mate as the moment when politics and entertainment collided. With Trump's prominence as the star of the TV show "The Apprentice" and his fascination with building his image, it was a natural progression for Trump to enter the political realm.

Daisey places the blame on where Trump is now, politically, on all of us. He says we all sat idly by in disbelief as Trump dipped his toe into the political water with his tirade on the legitimacy of President Obama's birth certificate, and thought any chance of a political future for him was a joke. Daisey also makes it clear that no matter what happens next Tuesday, the repercussions of what Trump has accomplished will be felt for years. Maybe the next pied piper won't be orange, but he or she will have learned from Trump and perfected the catch phrases that stir some people to rise and follow them—people who have seemingly been forgotten by both parties.

May, under the skilled direction of Katie McFadzen, delivers a firm and direct portrayal of Daisey. May performed The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs in town previously, so he was already familiar with Daisey's style and cadence of speech. His tirades and rants never seem unrealistic and his ability to deliver some of Daisey's more personal stories with conviction and clarity makes it seem like he is not acting. Since the monologue is delivered in first person, those in the audience who don't know much about Daisey might think that the personal stories we hear are actually about May's family. May delivers the script's many jokes with ease and he also does a pretty good impression of Trump, though that is only a very small part of this piece, as well as solid impressions of Jeb Bush and even of Mark Burnett, the creator of "The Apprentice."

Daisey has written a thought-provoking piece that will most likely stir up many feelings and might even make you want to rage about the predicament we are now in or have moments of outrage concerning the state of politics and how we are all a part of the problem. The interesting thing about the thoughts and feelings that Daisey manages to provoke in The Trump Card is that no matter your feelings on Trump, or the outcome of the election next week, we all will unfortunately be suffering from the ramifications of what Trump and all of us have created for years to come.

The Trump Card at Stray Cat Theatre through November 6th, 2016, with performances at the Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 W. Rio Salado Parkway. Tickets can be ordered by calling 480 227-1766 or at straycattheatre.org.

Written by Mike Daisey
Director: Katie McFadzen
Adaptors: Ron May, Katie McFadzen, Mychal Anaya
Production Stage Manager: Mychal Anaya
Scenic Design: Holly Windingstad

Cast :
Mike Daisey: Ron May


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