Dallas — It’s fairly easy to envision a Trump/Lear sendup. For all his shortcomings, Trump is a parodist’s dream-come-true, and Lear being a mad king with precocious children makes for easy parallels.
But whatever you might imagine, hometown-boy-made-good David Carl’s Trump Lear is not it. For one thing, it’s a one-man show, with most of the characters played by deliberately crude puppets of celebrities and politicians (my favorite was Beavis and Butt-head as Regan and Goneril).
For another, Carl’s character is putting the show on not by choice, but under the threat by the unseen voice of a Professor Oz-like Trump, who vows to kill Carl if he comes away from it liking neither the play nor Carl.
If you’re expecting laughs—and why wouldn’t you?—you’ll get them in abundance. Oz-Trump constantly interrupts Carl’s character throughout the performance to give criticism, pointers, or just wax about his greatness. Trump may not be the hardest figure to satirize, but give credit to Carl and his co-writer, Michole Biancosino, for nailing it nonetheless. Carl’s impressions, as well as many others he does throughout the show are nuanced and flawless.
Carl and Biancosino have something far more ambitious in mind, however, than just cheap laughs. rump Lear goes in a surprisingly poignant direction, culminating in Carl’s character ferociously giving Trump what-for in a manner some of us do in our dreams.
In the end, Carl and Biancosino’s treatment has keen insight into Trump, Lear, humanity, and Carl himself. It is smart. It is funny. It is compelling.
It is not perfect. A dining scene in the middle seemed disconnected from the rest of the play, or at least, the connection went over my head. Carl’s self-referencing seems a little heavy-handed sometimes, even if that’s by design. Exhibit A: his character’s name is “Carl David.”
But if Carl won’t win any awards for his humility—and he won’t—Trump Lear shows us that he can be bigly proud.