The date is 22 November 2019. We are led to understand that Donald Trump has been impeached and exiled to Palm Beach. We encounter a prison meeting room in El Paso Texas. It contains a water cooler, a desk, two chairs and there is a window with one-way glass. Sitting in one of the chairs we see a handcuffed man in an orange jumpsuit.
Rick, a country boy from Texas and Trump supporter, is meeting with a university professor, an African American woman, Gloria. She is here to get his side of the story for a book she intends to write. Initially, Rick appears quite guarded and paranoid possibly because his interviewer is black. He acknowledges he will be executed for what he has done and doesn’t expect a “Sheriff Arpaio pardon”.
We find out Rick had left school early and worked as a paperboy and in various other odd jobs. He didn’t have a particularly unusual upbringing. His mom was very religious, his ex-airforce father not so much explains Rick, “more the Church of Budweiser” type but this is Texas after all.
Rick had wanted to join the Marines but it was his flat feet, not “bone spurs” that prevented him from doing so. This play is not so much about Donald Trump, but the America that he created from the divisive, racist and incendiary rhetoric he used to get elected and still uses throughout his presidency. An America left in fear of “illegal immigrants” blaming them for the rise in violent crime and believing them to be the reason why “real Americans” cannot get jobs.
Rick was first impressed by Donald Trump when he saw him in the Republican primary debate. He watched Trump literally destroy established Republicans – the nicknames he recalled; “Little Marco”, “Low Energy Jeb”, “Lying Ted”. He started doing security at Trump’s rallies, finding them electrifying.
It gradually becomes apparent that Rick’s incarceration is a result of an accumulation of events around June 2018. Trump was desperately trying to distract his #MAGA base from the Trump Russia scandal that was overshadowing his presidency.
An “alleged” terrorist attack in Times Square leads to Trump declaring martial law across the US, banning most mainstream media (what Trump describes as the “fake news media”) and rounding up “illegal” immigrants in detention centres. We understand from the dialogue that Rick (who at this point was in the military police), was in charge of one of these overcrowded and unsanitary centres.
Pulitzer, Tony and WGA prize-winner playwright Robert Schenkkan, began to write this play in October 2016 during what he describes as “the most dispiriting American Presidential campaign in memory”.
While this play is a work of fiction, it is interlaced with eery historical references. It is not that far removed from the reality that we are now seeing play out in America. The latest is small children as young as one being taken from their migrant parents.
There are chillingly convincing performances by Trevor White as Rick and Angela Griffin as Gloria. This truly disturbing “Orwellian” type play leaves you feeling anxious and fearful for the future of the world. Having said that so does Trump’s tweets.
The corrupt Mainstream Media is working overtime not to mention the infiltration of people, Spies (Informants), into my campaign! Surveillance much?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 31, 2018
All this, while a complicit republican party now often referred to as “the Trump party” fearful of losing out to Democrats in the 2018 midterms stay silent.