Democracy in shambles? Why not put on a show? That’s the inciting impulse behind The First Annual Trump Family Special, a low-comedy, low-blow, medium-camp concatenation of Franklin D Roosevelt’s fireside chats, the Partridge Family’s Christmas albums and the apocalypse.
In this musical written and directed by Danny Salles, with music and additional lyrics credited to Tor & Lisa, the Trump family has gathered for a televised special. The Donald, like Godot, keeps postponing his arrival, so Ivanka, Ivana, Eric, Donald Jr and Marla Maples vamp for the cameras. Gina Gershon’s Melania, in duck face so extreme she becomes indistinguishable from a mallard, is clearly the vampiest. Jared Kushner also briefly appears, personated by a ventriloquist’s dummy.
Shreds of plot and decency are few. Melania has a blink-and-you-missed-it reckoning in her dressing room. Jeremiah (Michael Sheehy), the show’s queer producer, has a mini crisis of conscience that is abandoned in favour of pastiche songs recounting the greatest hits, kicks, whacks, smacks and wallops of Trump’s Twitter account.
The humour is not exactly subtle. In the first song, the cast trills: “We’re glad you bought the tickets to our bigly cabaret / We’re giving all the proceeds to the KKK.” Later on a Mike Pence lookalike (Glen Pannell) sings about ball gags, “glory-holing” and MDMA. The audience is graciously included in a song, If We Had It as Bad as You, in which the Trumps imagine living like a normal family.
The brow and the production values are both set pretty low. There’s not a lot to do on the Triad stage, the size of a fitted sheet, and Salles just shoves the bodies on and off and cues the piano player. The staging is enthusiastic and a few of the impersonations are spot-on, especially Marissa Mulder as a flighty Maples.
Nothing if not topical, the show inserts a mushroom penis line and repurposes Trump’s brain-cudgeled Florence comment that the recent hurricane was from the standpoint of water one of the wettest we’ve ever seen.
“That’s what he used to say about me,” Melania wails.
It’s a reasonable dirty joke, but it’s not nearly as funny or horrifying as the Florence soundbite itself. Me the People, another political cabaret at the Triad, had the same problem. No parody tops the outrageousness of the president verbatim.
In The First Annual Trump Family Special plenty of the jokes are filthy (POTUS is rhymed with “deep throat us”) but few of them are shockers. The pee tapes, the payoffs to porn stars, the crush on Vladimir Putin, the pussy-grabbing, the corruption, the caged children, they’ve all become punchlines, good for a cheap giggle between cocktails. Welcome to normalised. Don’t forget to tip your server.
Instead of protesting or resisting or plotting some liberal anarchist coup, you’re invited to sip and chuckle and go back out on the street heh-heh-hehing over Trump’s putative tweet to Melania: “Still on one of my tremendous golf courses. I’m playing the 3rd hole and thought of you.”
Is this the way the world ends? Not with a bang, but a gag.
- At the Triad, New York, until 6 December.