Part comedy, part wish fulfillment and – to many – bigly tragedy, Transition is a sharply written production that imagines what may have been discussed during the meeting between Barack Obama and Donald Trump just after Election Day 2016. No record exists of what they actually spoke about, only the footage of an uncharacteristically nervous and subdued Trump calling Obama “a good man” before attacking him on Twitter once more.
There’s no subdued Trump in playwright Ray Richmond’s version, however. Here, Trump arrives pumped up and ready to demonstrate his dominance over Obama, who reacts to the orange man’s pomposity with serene thoughtfulness. As they speak, however, it becomes apparent that Trump is in way over his head, and 44 becomes increasingly concerned.
He quizzes Trump on world events, policy, and protocol, and quickly realizes he’s dealing with someone completely unprepared for the job. He attempts to give the older man a crash course in acting presidential, but Trump has already made up his mind how he’s going to behave. Deportations, the repeal of Obamacare, and attacks on other politicians and the media are all on his to-do list. And, of course, the tweets.
Joshua Wolf Coleman is spot-on in his portrayal of Obama, maintaining the man’s trademark cool demeanor until he is pushed too far by the blustering Trump, played as a pompous fool by Harry S. Murphy. Neither Murphy nor playwright Richmond attempt to add any shadings to the man’s character. After a tiresome and vicious election season, everyone knows who he is by now and how he behaves. There’s one slight inaccuracy — at one point in the play, Trump laughs, and that’s something the real one doesn’t ever seem to do.
Randall, a young intern (Trevor Alkazian), serves as an audience surrogate, staring at 45 with dismay and exchanging meaningful glances with Obama. They both know what’s coming (especially when Trump assures Randall that he won’t deport him) but are powerless to stop it.
This is a piece that wears its liberal heart on its sleeve, so Trump supporters probably would not be terribly amused. As for the rest, they just may feel a rush of longing for the days before January 20 2017. The 80-minute show is briskly directed by Lee Costello.
Transition plays June 16, 18, 24 and 25 at various times at the Lounge Theatre, 6201 Santa Monica Blvd. Tickets and more information can be obtained on the Fringe site.