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May 04 2018
Nightmares From My Father: A Review Of TRANSPARENT FALSEHOOD Comments (0)

TransparentFalsehood12_JosephHenryRitterThe family that preys together: Trump, Ivanka & Jared (Images by Francis Krow)

Transparent Falsehood, Gil Kofman's apocalyptic biography of Donald J. Trump, probably deserves one of those trendy trigger warnings, and the play knows it — but the play isn't genteel enough to let you know what's coming down the pike. Neither is life. Hence: 45.

Before the show, a woman next to me felt me out to make sure I wasn't a Trump supporter before telling me she'd recently been asked by a vacationing family how to kill a few hours around Lincoln Center before taking in a music program. She said she'd given them ideas, then urged them to avoid Columbus Circle, which may be filled with a Trump protest. She then asked the mom if Trump were her president, to which the mom replied, Yes, and we'll agree to disagree. My seatmate wasn't having it, instead telling their teens that the music program they were going to see was federally funded and urging them to have a chat with their parents later.

That's one way to address the international horror that is Donald Trump, and Transparent Falsehood is another.

TransparentFalsehood13_JosephHenryRitterUrinetown, featuring Bannon & Trump

The dark collection of vignettes finds Trump (Ezra Barnes) interacting with his PTSD-mom wife Melania (Stephanie Fredricks), his flirty daughter Ivanka (Latonia Phipps), his feckless son-in-law Jared Kushner (Wyatt Fenner), his effeminate son Barron (also Fenner), his anti-Semitic advisor Steve Bannon (Chuck Montgomery) and others, but ultimately consists of Trump forcing his persona, his whims, his prejudices on the stupid people who elected him, and on the even stupider ones who kind of tolerate him, which is worse.

He projects, everyone projects onto him.

Barnes is nothing like Trump (and isn't going for Baldwinesque verisimilitude, as the program helpfully points out), yet over time, his line readings feel more and more familiar, until his impersonation feels effortlessly ... right, kind of like the way your eye can read several lines of misspelled words as long as the first and last letters are correct and you have a clue about the context. He is fully committed to bringing the blowhard to life, and possibly to death, as a scene with Trump's dead father (Fredricks, somehow) suggests.

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Fenner is a hoot as Barron, fearlessly creating a portrait of a kid about which we know very little, and offers Hasidic beefcake as a swimsuit-clad Jared; Fredricks makes Melania stoic and sympathetic, bringing depth to the worst first lady since Andrew Jackson's wife, who died before he took office; Phipps's Ivanka would be right at home in Mean Girls (in other words, bull's-eye); and Montgomery may be the VIP for his willingness to channel a WrestleMania announcer on top of his other duties.

TransparentFalsehood14_JosephHenryRitter.jpgThe First Ladies' Club

Transparent Falsehood is not for everyone — it's not even for all Trump-hating New Yorkers — but it's a feat to produce such an aggressively twisted, avant-garde play in a season when SpongeBob SquarePants is the leading contender at the Tonys. You'll endure Trump banging and degrading Melania, torturing Barron, and taking the world's longest wizz, but while it can be hard to decide whether the play is droning on or it's just about a man who drones on (can't we drone this guy?), it's rewarding if you're up for a black, black dose of reality.

It's also pure poetry that the theater in which this poison pill is being popped happens to be down the block from the site of the lambasted Michelle Wolf's upcoming Netflix show.

Transparent Falsehood, directed by Richard Caliban, opens Friday, May 4, at Theater 511 (511 W. 54th St., NYC).

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