Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Woolly Mammoth Theatre

Mike Daisey Plays The Trump Card


Donald J. Trump – This is your life!  – as told by monologist Mike Daisey. While the nearly two-hour solo performance produces many laugh-out-loud moments, Daisey ends on a sobering note: Trump may not be elected president, but what he has accomplished has set the stage for future candidates who will follow his playlist.

Daisy attempts to soften the blows by, at times, not only empathizing with Trump, but also comparing himself to the real estate mogul turned political candidate. Donald’s father, Fred, was an “alleged” racist (“alleged” emphasized by Daisey), as was Daisey’s grandfather, described as a crusty character from Maine. Daisey’s mother and father served as buffers, both parents condemning the older man’s attitude, while Trump was not sheltered from his father, instead inheriting his business and, we are led to believe, his prejudices.

Daisey’s father frequently cruised yard sales and mailed his children packages wrapped in brown paper and secured with lots of tape. While Daisey says he often burned the packages before opening them, on one occasion his father’s note proves intriguing. Inside, Daisey finds a Trump version of the popular board game, Monopoly. Daisy decides to throw a theme party, inviting friends over to play the vintage game. He serves Trump steaks (actually regular steaks that he slaps a Trump label on). Rather than Monopoly’s two die, the Trump game has one dice, a capital “T” substituting for the numeral six. Throw that letter, and the player gets to essentially rob the game’s bank.

daisey_portrait_1While most Americans now know a great deal about Trump, Daisey puts his own spin on The Donald’s history. Trump was only 27 when he took over the family business, shifting the company’s focus from Queens to Manhattan, but continuing his father’s business practices which, Daisey says, meant holding out payments to contractors and then paying less than was owed. Those who objected were threatened with being blackballed by the construction industry, he says.

Besides his father, Trump’s greatest influence, according to Daisey, was the lawyer, Roy Cohn. (On the night I attended, a young member of the audience leaned over to her mother, whispering, “Who’s Roy Cohn?” Anticipating that millennials might not recognize the name, Daisey is prepared.) Cohn was chief counsel to Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunt. A closeted homosexual who died of complications of AIDS, Cohn, Daisey reminds us, has been portrayed in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and on The Simpsons as the blue-haired lawyer representing Mr. Burns, the evil owner of the Springfield Nuclear Plant. After resigning from McCarthy’s committee, Cohn went into private practice and for 13 years one of his clients was Donald Trump. He represented Trump against charges brought by the Justice Department for violations of the Fair Housing Act. Daisy notes that Trump settled and there was never any indication that he was found guilty.

daisey_trump_portrait_3This is a low tech production – just Daisey sitting at a table with a glass of water and a small towel that he uses to blot sweat from his face. (While the photos included here show shots of Trump, none were used during the press performance.) He has notes in front of him, but often improvises. With Trump producing new headlines each day, Daisey has plenty of opportunity to update his script. The fact that the Republican presidential nominee ejected a crying baby from a rally made it into the performance I attended.

While Daisey stressed that he does the necessary research for his monologues, he ran into trouble with his The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs after a portion was broadcast on “This American Life,” a public radio show. “I have difficult news,” Ira Glass, the host and executive producer stated on the radio show’s blog. “We’ve learned that Mike Daisey’s story about Apple in China – which we broadcast in January – contained significant fabrications. We’re retracting the story because we can’t vouch for its truth.”

The incident raises an interesting question: are Daisey’s monologues journalism or entertainment? The Trump Card was certainly entertaining. And, in what is turning out to be a wacky presidential campaign, much needed relief.

The Trump Card
Written and performed by Mike Daisey
Directed by Isaac Butler
Woolly Mammoth Theatre
641 D Street NW
Through August 7, 2016

Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre  – Laughs When We Desperately Need Them


Something special and downright hilarious is happening this month at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre. The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre – whose famous alumni include Amy Poehler, Kate McKinnon, Bobby Moynihan, Horatio Sanz, and many more – are taking over the stage through July 31, bringing the group’s special brand of long form improvisation. Each night four incredibly talented performers make it up as they go along, no pre-planning or rehearsal, so each show is entirely unique.

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Brandon Scott Jones and Connor Ratliff

If your idea of improv is Whose Line is it Anyway?, what UCB does is very different. Rather than short skits, long form improv, pioneered by Del Close in Chicago in the 1980s, has the performers create an entire show. Not only is length a challenge – UCB’s production at Woolly Mammoth runs more than one hour and 30 minutes – but keeping the characters and scenes connected and the laughs coming places huge demands on these comedians. Fortunately, the four now appearing in We Know How You Die!, are up to the challenge.

Improv is a crowd pleaser because the audience has a chance to participate in the fun. The Saturday evening we attended, dozens of hands went up when UCB member – the absolutely amazing Shannon O’Neill – asked, “Who wants to know how they die?” Among those who volunteered, O’Neill asked another question, “Tell us something unique about yourself.” One woman said she had a piece of metal in her pinky finger, the result of an accident. A college student admitted that she met her nursery school teacher at a party and the woman offered to roll her a joint. Still another woman (where were the men that night?!) talked about treating her husband as a “boy toy.”

After conferring with her colleagues, O’Neill invited the woman with the metal in her finger to join them on the stage. The young woman, who explained that she ran a service helping people present themselves better on dating sites, was a virtual treasure trove of information that the performers used well in the improv that followed.

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Molly Thomas and Connor Ratlif

Besides O’Neill, Connor Ratliff, Brandon Scott Jones, and Molly Thomas, helped to tell the young woman’s story. The four obviously are comfortable working together, and moved in and out of scenes with nary a pause in the action or laughs. Improv not only tests the actors with their mental and verbal skills, but requires a great deal of physical movement. Thomas was brilliant, at one point impersonating the actual dating app being shaken up by O’Neill’s character. And Jones transformed himself into the woman’s dog, named Scruffy. Ratliff stood out for his ability to morph seamlessly from one character into another, many times keeping a straight face despite the absurdity of the situation.

My guess is that true fans will be attending this show more than once while UCB is in residence. Each night is another adventure and another opportunity to laugh out loud. Don’t miss the fun.

Photos courtesy of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company

Top photo: Shannon O’Neill, Brandon Scott Jones, Connor Ratliff, and Molly Thomas

We Know How You Die!
United Citizens Brigade
Woolly Mammoth Theatre
641 D Street NW
(202) 393-3939