“Very creative, very mean. I like that.”
In June 2017, the Public Theater controversially staged “Julius Caesar” with a Trump-like figure as the assassinated tyrant. “Trump Lear” takes a similar premise, then gleefully veers off-course.
A gifted impressionist named Carl creates a one-man show of “King Lear,” starring Trump as the aging, insane narcissist. The president locks Carl in a room and demands to see the show over video feed. If Trump hates the performance, he’ll execute Carl for treason.
Carl’s show is small-time theatre, featuring condiment bottle puppets of politicians. Any time he gets a rhythm going, Trump interrupts via voiceover to heckle or demand changes. The president also leaves mystery boxes onstage for Carl, adding his reality-show flair to the performance.
All told, we see three scenes and a few monologues from “King Lear.” George W. Bush plays a sly Edmund the bastard… until Trump insists Carl make him dumber. Lear’s soliloquy from Act II dissolves into a series of (very funny) celebrity impressions. As for the finale—well, let’s just say Carl understands narcissists.
“Trump Lear” shrewdly explores the relationship between art and attention. Is Carl just cashing in on Trump’s popularity? Can theatre communicate truth when audiences get bored instantly? Most importantly, how should an artist respond when he has the president’s attention?
Besides doing his “Beavis and Butt-Head” impression. That part’s obvious.
David Carl’s impressions favor humor over precise mimicry. He shows off a wide range of characters, from Reagan to Tiffany to John Wayne.
The audience struggled to find its role in some scenes. When Carl plays Trump-as-Lear, should we boo the character or cheer for the actor whose life hangs in the balance?
The evening shows are sold out. If you still need tickets, Millibo added a Saturday afternoon matinee.
“Trump Lear” contains harsh language, a few gross-out gags and hilariously mutilated Shakespeare.
Millibo Art Theatre
1626 S Tejon St
Box Office: (719) 465-6321
Playing January 18 – 20, 2018
Admission: $25 general; $18 Thursday
Running Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes