Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Raleigh/Durham

The Trump Card
Manbites Dog Theater
Review by Garrett Southerland

Carl Martin
Photo Coutesy of Manbites Dog Theater
"You, my friends, are screwed!" This is how the audience is greeted at Manbites Dog Theater's production of The Trump Card, an adapted monologue by Mike Daisey about the rise and continual rise of Donald Trump.

No matter what hat you are most accustomed to seeing Trump wear—billionaire, real estate developer, narcissist, TV personality, or presidential candidate—the hat he wears most constantly is that of a performer. And being a performer himself, Daisey knowingly presents Trump as a professional liar who plays to his audience for the biggest reaction. This monologue takes us on Daisey's personal journey to find out how Trump has come to personify both the American Dream and its deterioration.

We are briefly introduced to Donald's father, Fred, an American developer who tried to conceal his German heritage. He developed poorly constructed buildings, paid few people what they were owed, and associated with the KKK. Sound familiar? But Trump's father was only one of two significant influences. If you think Donald Trump is Darth Vader, then Roy Cohn, his lawyer up until the eighties, was the Emperor Palpatine. From his days as a lawyer for Joseph McCarthy during the Communist witch hunts of the fifties to his systematic obliteration of anyone who might dare to expose his homosexuality, Cohn knew how to bend the world to his will, and he taught his apprentice well.

Politics aside, the real business of Trump is branding. We learn that since the nineties his work has been less in real estate development and more in marketing his own name, including movie cameos, a university, even a line of steaks, and his hit reality TV show "The Apprentice." His political interests didn't begin until Sarah Palin was tapped in 2012 to be John McCain's vice-presidential running mate, a "shoot from the hip" decision that to many was a sign that the Republican Party is dying-perhaps there was an opening for something or someone new. Trump tested his audience to find out whether he had a shot at becoming the leader of the most powerful nation in the world, and clearly he got the answer he wanted.

Directed by Jeff Storer, Carl Martin takes the stage for this performance. One might think a Donald Trump impersonator would go for the orange makeup and over-the-top blond wig, but not here. Mr. Martin gives us more of an everyday man, seated at a table, at times glancing at his laptop. Though he is commanding in voice, giving us a handful of characters solely by changing his inflection, a bit of movement may have engaged the audience even more, though the laughs came easily at the performance I attended.

Daisey acknowledges early on that many in the audience may have come for a slaughter of the personality known as Donald Trump. And though those people may get what they came for, there is plenty of finger-pointing to go around. We made Trump. Daisey recounts a visit to his mother in Maine, who lives on less than $27,000 a year and feels let down by both political parties. When asked by a canvasser to think of what's at stake and vote for Hillary Clinton, she scoffs, saying, "Where were you before? How does this help me now?" She, like many in America today, feel that their voices have been neglected, and this "Trump card" may be just be their opportunity.

The Trump Card is a bitterly funny, chilling look into the mirror of American politics.

The Trump Card is presented by Manbites Dog Theater, 703 Foster Street, Durham, NC through November 7th, 2016. Tickets are $10 Adults/Seniors/Military, $6 Students/Youth. Season Flex Passes are good for all shows. Tickets can be purchased online at or by phone at 919-682-3343.

Playwright: Mike Daisey
Director: Jeff Storer
Stage Manager: Onostasia Ebright
Performed by: Carl Martin

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