A superb cast including Alec Baldwin (not playing you know who) and Ellen Burstyn (playing Elizabeth Warren) appeared in this one-night-only staged reading of excerpts from Trump’s cabinet confirmation hearings.
It’s not for nothing that the title of the new theater piece performed Thursday night at New York City’s Town Hall ends with a question mark. Composed entirely of excerpts from transcripts of the Trump cabinet confirmation hearings, All the President’s Men? played like a comedy…a very dark one.
A co-production of the Public Theater and London’s National Theatre — it was also performed for one night last month in London’s West End — the staged reading featured a gallery of acting talent including Ellen Burstyn, Raul Esparza, Linda Emond, Bill Irwin, Denis O’Hare, Aasif Mandvi and Ron Rifkin, among many others. Alec Baldwin, moonlighting from his recurring role as a certain U.S. president on Saturday Night Live, played Rex Tillerson, while New Yorker editor David Remnick appeared as Senator Al Franken.
Anti-Trump protestors thronged the entrance, which seemed a bit redundant since it was a good bet than anyone attending this show was probably not a Trump supporter.
The Public’s artistic director Oskar Eustis kicked off the evening. He pointed out the significance of the piece being performed in a theater that was built nearly a hundred years ago by an organization devoted to promoting women’s suffrage.
As for the play itself, “No words have been changed…this is not a spin or a satire,” Eustis explained. He went on to say that while the cast of the London version accurately reflected the real-life figures they were portraying, this production would feature a racially diverse ensemble.
The piece was composed of scenes featuring exchanges from the Senate nomination hearings for four of the most powerful of Trump’s cabinet appointees: Rex Tillerson (Baldwin), Tom Price (David Costabile), Scott Pruitt (Mandvi) and Jeff Sessions (Nathan Osgood). All of the dialogue was verbatim, because, after all, you can’t make this stuff up. It was edited and staged by British director Nicolas Kent, and it seems ironic that the Brits are more effective in capturing our political zeitgeist than we are. The only major play about the Bush administration, for example, was Stuff Happens, written by David Hare and given its premiere at London’s National Theatre. It’s about time American playwrights started stepping up the pace.
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