Hollywood Fringe 2017
A look into the most awkward conversation ever held at the White House.
In the days after the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, many people were going through some dark times, but perhaps no one had it tougher than President Barack Obama who put on his best face to ensure a smooth transition of power to a man who spent a lot of time spreading lies about his country of origin.
Playwright Ray Richmond’s takes us behind closed doors of this actual event and imagines what might have transpired, rather like David Hare’s “Stuff Happens,” (about the Bush Administration’s lead up to the Iraq War). “Transition” ends up being more of comedy of mismatched personalities than Hare’s political history play, but that’s okay, because after that election, we could all use a good laugh.
Joshua Wolf Coleman does an impeccable representation of Barack Obama, never veering into caricature nor sacrificing the tone for the sake of accuracy. Coleman’s Obama is cool, calm, and always playing the long game. But it feels like he’s two chess moves ahead of an opponent who’s playing checkers; Donald Trump, played by Harry S. Murphy. Murphy’s Trump is, mercifully, far off from appearing too much like the real Trump or even that of his most famous imitator, Alec Baldwin. But he is no less obnoxious or full of himself or out of touch with reality which serves the play well. Some of the show’s best moments feature Coleman’s Obama playing the straight man of the century when Murphy’s Trump goes off the rails, which happens every other minute.
Director Lee Costello does an able job extracting laughs by pitting these two rival figures against each other under the guise of cordiality. The only negative worth mentioning was the wholly unnecessary and non-comedic rap song performed after the bows, draining all the fun out of the occasion by reminding us that the nation is indeed divided and we all need to come together. Meh. The message is loud and clear, and it’s all right there in the play. The audience was clearly on Obama’s side the whole time, but I see no reason why conservative voters couldn’t also enjoy watching this odd couple for a new generation. ZACHARY BERNSTEIN