BWW Review: The Resistance Hits Broadway in Michael Moore's THE TERMS OF MY SURRENDER
Red, white and blue bunting is draped across a stage left box at the Belasco Theatre because, as Michael Moore explains at the beginning of his more-or-less solo Broadway performance, The Terms of My Surrender, it is reserved for President Donald Trump to sit in at any performance he chooses.
In the classic, nearly 110-year-old playhouse, it rather eerily suggests the box reserved for President Abraham Lincoln at his last visit to Ford's Theatre.
More of a political rally than a theatre entertainment, the nearly two hour long intermissionless production, directed by Michael Mayer, is played under the assumption that every attendee wishes to see every member of the current administration out of office yesterday. The Oscar-winning activist documentarian frequently refers to his patrons as "us" and, at least at Tuesday night's preview, many felt fired up enough to yell out their disapproval of Trump using the kind of language usually reserved for "Access Hollywood" tour buses.
"Donald Trump outsmarted us all," is the inconvenient truth he insists his fans accept, pointing out the newbie politician's crafty ability to tell voters in each individual state he sought to capture exactly what they wanted to hear, packaged in easy-to-digest sound bites.
But in lieu of wound-licking, Moore is looking to inspire liberals into action with personal stories pushing the theme that change begins with one person willing to do something.
First comes the story of how, as a 17-year-old high school student, his essay on racism at the local Elks Club helped lead to its integration. The next year he won an election to his district's school board on a platform to fire the principal.
In 1985, he and a buddy flew to Germany and were soon seen in newspapers holding a banner protesting President Ronald Reagan's honoring of fallen Nazi soldiers.
But perhaps the most fascinating bit of individual activism he relates occured in 2001. His book, "Stupid White Men," was scheduled to be released on September 11th of that year, but after the tragic events of the day, his publisher insisted that he needed to tone down the book's criticism of President Bush before it could be sold. Moore refused and the publisher planned to destroy all copies, but actions started by a single librarian led to the book being rescued, and quickly becoming a best-seller.
But the evening's most memorable moment is a grim summary of the political and economic machinations that have led to the poisoning of the water consumed by the residents of Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan.
There's fun stuff, too. A tongue-in-cheek quiz contest pits the person designated as the audience's smartest American against the one deemed as the room's dumbest Canadian. There's also a sequence concerning the invitation Moore received to appear as a contestant on "Dancing With The Stars."
That DWTS sequence had one audience member quipping on her way out, "It just isn't Broadway without some man-candy."