Thurman brings Trumpland critique to Broadway


New York (AFP)

Donald Trump's name is mud in New York, a city tormented that a man who embodies the antithesis of everything it holds dear is president, and that to cap it all, he's a New Yorker.

So what could be more timely than Oscar-nominee Uma Thurman making her Broadway debut in a play adapted by "House of Cards" writer Beau Willimon that drips with venom for contemporary Washington?

On stage nightly a mile from Trump's Manhattan penthouse, "The Parisian Woman" stars Thurman as a socialite, Democrat wife prepared to do anything to secure a judgeship from Trump for her politically ambivalent, under-qualified but ambitious tax attorney husband.

The 90-minute show is peppered with Trump-shaming gags, "this madman we have in the White House," punch lines mocking his use of Twitter, refusal to release his tax returns and reputed thin skin.

"It's okay. We've got good people around him now. Well, mostly good people," says character Jeanette, who plays a Republican grandee recently tapped to lead the Federal Reserve.

There are references to John Kelly, Trump's chief of staff, defense secretary Jim Mattis, first daughter Ivanka and "fake news."

The younger generation is represented by Rebecca, a Democrat bristling with brains and talent, driven by presidential ambitions of her own. "I hope I'm not the first. I hope I'm the second, or the third."

Willimon is best known for writing Netflix hit "House of Cards" in which a now disgraced Kevin Spacey played a US president devoid of moral compass and Robin Wright, his Lady Macbeth style wife.

It won rave reviews at a time when viewers delighted in macabre escapism. Now that Americans have a president whom millions view as dangerous, reducing that to drawing room satire is less appealing.

So while Thurman's fame has driven ticket sales, reviews have been mediocre, paling in comparison to her electric on-screen roles for Quentin Tarantino in the likes of "Pulp Fiction" and "Kill Bill."

More than that, theater critics find fault with the script, chastising its light-hearted drawing-room comedy as too light-weight given the peril with which they regard the crisis-ridden White House.

- 'Mannered trifle' -

The New Yorker dismissed the play as "dirty Washington business as usual," when "what's happening now is worse than business as usual."

"It may take dramatists, like the rest of us, many more years to process this parlous political moment."

If Willimon's play "leads anywhere," sniffed Hollywood trade magazine Variety, "it will be down the drain."

"He fails to draw on any of the many issues bedeviling the president and his minions, missing his chance to turn this mannered trifle into a substantive political drama."

But members of the audience seemed enamored and laughed, or at least guffawed at all the key jokes.

"It's politically charged. Re-done well," said Max Whalen, 33, a shipping company logistics manager. Originally inspired by Henri Becque's 1885 French comedy "La Parisienne," Willimon reworked the play after a 2013 production in California.

"I think that really helps with the current state of the nation."

Drew Kranak, 73-year-old retiree and die-hard Thurman fan, was thrilled. "Outstanding. She's definitely extremely talented," he said.

"It's very timely. Of course it's very political but I enjoyed the play," he said, describing his politics as fiscally conservative but socially liberal, and branding Trump "a total disaster."

"It's New York, and I think both New York and California are on the same page," he said.