By Sarah Downs
America in the age of Trump. We have been trying to wrap our heads around that one for the past two years. It is a Herculean task (one at which I fail regularly). Thank goodness for satire. Alas, we are hard pressed to top the news, since so much of it is already comical, in a seriously schadenfreude way. If irony were traded on the stock exchange, we’d all be rich.
In his one-man show Durst Case Scenario: Mid Term Madness, Will Durst does his best to make sense of the political chaos, or at least prioritize its various highlights. He is mostly successful, but as he notes it can be an uphill battle, bringing with it the guilt that what’s good for political humorists is by definition not good for the world. Trump may be the gift that keeps on giving, but so is the havoc he wreaks.
An avowed “raging moderate” who satirizes across the political spectrum, Durst is a warm and funny blast from the past. As a child of the 1960’s he has some real cred when it comes to perspective. He has spent decades writing for everywhere from Esquire to The National Lampoon to the New York Times, and performing political stand-up across the country. With his decidedly low-tech overhead projector he alternately schools us and shares with us. It gives the show a kind of homey feeling. Your crazy uncle Will is handing down some major truth with the aid of a Sharpie and a transparency.
For example, Durst’s detailed re-enactment of the evolving narrative of denial/explanation/excuses/denial/admission/dismissal/distancing/embracing/blaming others that surrounds the story of the June 2016 meeting of Don Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort with Russian ‘businessmen’ at the Trump Tower is a tour de force moment. We all climb that pile of – I mean mountain of misinformation and misdirection – together. He connects the dots among the rogues gallery of miscreants who have been hired and fired in the revolving door of the Trump Administration, in a collage that leads inevitably to the man with the ‘sentient shrubbery’ on his head. Durst is intelligent, well informed and insightful. And he is honest enough to admit that he has no formula for how we ‘fix’ the situation. Indeed, when, as Durst says, every day without a mushroom cloud is a success story, you gotta wonder.
Durst reflects what we all feel — that we have no sense how and when or how we will escape this rabbit hole. He is not, however, giving up. Perhaps laughter is sufficient transgression for now. Durst also sports several safety pins on his jacket lapel, in solidarity with the social movement wherein people attach safety pins to their jackets to broadcast that they offer safe harbor; another act of defiance on which to build. Durst exhorts us to Resist, Subsist, Exist, Desist — all of the ‘ists.’ Good is worth fighting for, and a battle best fought together. Safety pins all around!
DURST CASE SCENARIO: MID-TERM MADNESS, starring Will Durst, produced by Eric Krebs; November 7, 2018 – November 18, 2018, at 8:00 p.m.; at The Playroom Theater (151 West 46th Street/8th Floor – between 6th Ave & Broadway). Tickets are $39 and may be purchased online here. 85 minutes with no intermission.