Updated: a day ago
On January 6th, my regularly scheduled programming was rudely interrupted by what appeared to be an amateur guerrilla theatre production. And as a theatrical American with a doctorate in Drama, I feel a responsibility to provide my professional opinion. So here it is.
While some (understandably) mistook this strange spectacle for a particularly lackluster production of Les Mis, if this was a musical, it seriously missed the mark.
First off, there was no band. Secondly, the singing was as pitchy as it was shouty. And thirdly, the choreography was absolutely abysmal. A rousing chorus number, preferably with a kick line, would have been a vast improvement.
And don’t even get me started on the costumes. Who designed this thing? Ravey Crockett?
I'm not just referring to the animal skins and ugly T-shirts with white supremacist slogans (little on-the-nose there, guys, don't you think?). I mean, what was with all those red trucker hats? Totally unflattering and hard on the audience’s eyes.
But by far the worst thing about this show was the plot.
The basic premise is far-fetched to begin with. A reality TV star bazillionaire turned American president (Idiocracy did *not* need a sequel, thankyouverymuch), known primarily for his outrageous lies, surprises no one by refusing to concede after losing an election that every court in the land has ruled fair and legal. He tells his supporters the election was stolen, despite copious evidence to the contrary, and--get this--they BELIEVE HIM. And show up in droves to try and prevent a peaceful transition of power.
But it gets worse from there. He basically tells them “Hey guys, I dare you to go storm the Capitol. You go on ahead, I’ll catch up.” AND THEY DO.
Meanwhile, he sneaks off to gleefully enjoy the ensuing chaos from his secure family party bunker?? It’s all a bit cartoon villain, if I’m honest.
Worse still, when these unwitting henchmen reach the barricades, the cops just LET THEM IN. And start taking selfies with them. Totally flattens the tension and makes us wonder who, if anyone, we're supposed to be rooting for.
But then, out of nowhere, a woman gets shot! Which seems entirely gratuitous because they’ve made no effort to build up any kind of emotional connection with the audience, so it's barely noticed in the chaos.
The whole thing devolves from there, if you can believe that. Windows are smashed, paintings are vandalized, testicles are tased, lecterns are stolen, and many surreal selfies are taken.
The production was rife with inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and anachronisms. For example, the "protesters" carried guns and handcuff-style zip ties, as if they were there to take hostages (!), and somehow these bumbling bumpkins from Flyover USA knew exactly where to go once they got inside? This is never explained.
Also, this is supposedly taking place during a global pandemic, yet very few of them are wearing masks. Which would be helpful, actually, were there any meaningful dialogue to hear or facial expressions to read beyond "murderous glee." But alas.
In the absence of director's notes, I was entirely unable to discern a main message, or any message for that matter. The symbolism was completely incoherent. There were American flags ALL over the place, but then the insurgents removed the American flag from the Capitol and replaced it with a flag with the losing president’s name on it. Huh?
Oh, and some of them held "blue lives matter" flags while attacking police. Was this intentional irony? The world may never know.
In fact, when I saw the same characters who had previously chanted "Build the wall! Build the wall!" climbing over a wall, thereby demonstrating the inefficacy of walls to keep out invaders, I began to entertain the idea that this might actually be a brilliant Dada-esque absurdist comedy, satirizing the current political climate.
But ultimately the ubiquitous white supremacist and fascist imagery convinced me that it was in fact intended as a vaudevillian-style melodrama, and that we were supposed to boo and hiss at the seditious ass-clowns whenever they appeared on the screen. Which I did. Loudly.
But then, before any heroes have the chance to swoop in and save the day, a pathetic excuse for a deus ex machina ending descends: the chastened loser finally caves to political pressure and tells the terrorists:
“Go home. We love you. You’re very special people.”
Seriously, that's a direct quote. You can't make up dialogue this terrible.
Then, inexplicably, the police carefully escort the attacking militia back down the Capitol steps, and let them go on their merry way.
Look, as a theatre person, I pride myself on the ability to suspend my disbelief, but there’s only so far for my disbelief to go.
I give this production two enthusiastic thumbs down, and advise whoever devised it not to get fired from their day job.
Everyone's a Critic
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Now in Swedish!
Thanks to my friend and colleague Dr. Ottiliana Rolandsson, this essay has been adapted to the Swedish and published in Alba Nu! Here's the Swedish audio version for your listening pleasure: