Stray Cat Theatre's The Trump Card Is a Well-Timed Tirade

While some of us wait with bated breath for Mike Daisey’s next play, which is reportedly about the death of American journalism, we have Ron May playing Mike Daisey in Daisey’s rousing The Trump Card. The monologue, now onstage as a sort of season-bonus performance at Stray Cat Theatre, is equal parts polemic and timely succor for those of us biting our nails about November 8.

Directed by actress Katie McFadzen, the piece is as unpredictable as Mr. Trump himself. Its frantic single act lurches from terror treatise to comic rant; takes a swipe at explaining Trump’s potential value as a politician; and attempts to describe why The Donald is such a monster (his father was horrible, too; he was “raised” by Roy Cohn, and so on).

Somewhere in there, Daisey wedges autobiographical musings, drawing a neat line from his racist grandfather, his ineffectual father, and his angry mom, and back to Trump, whose tenure as a reality-TV court jester is also held up for observation. But Daisey doesn’t stop at disparaging a much-hated presidential hopeful. He takes us to task, too, telling Republicans they’re responsible for Trump’s ascension because they never took him seriously, and Democrats for ignoring the needs of the working class.

If there’s wisdom here, it’s in the way that Daisey (and May and McFadzen) force us to consider our own positions, our own culpability. He presumes we’re all liberals, because we’re a theater audience, and then reminds us that voting for Hillary isn’t enough. We must, the piece implies, begin telling the truth about our own lives, and how those truths affect the world. (Daisey ought to know. His The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs, about the founder of Apple, included material the author had fabricated, a fact that nearly destroyed his then-relatively-new career.)

May is fine as a frantic liberal, impatiently storming the stage, a man enraged by the world. It’s the quieter moments, in what amounts to a hasty harangue, that show off this actor’s chops, providing the bonus that makes this well-timed tirade so entertaining and so comforting at a time when, frankly, we could use a little reassurance.

The Trump Card continues through November 6 at Tempe Center for the Arts, 700 West Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe. Tickets at

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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela