BWW Review: Ryan Raftery's IVANKA 2020 at Joe's Pub!
Does Ryan Raftery's latest installment of "Let's explore the inner heart and turmoil of Celebrity X" take a celebrity obsession to an entirely new level? Probably. That is unless the last show and the show before that were this f#$%ing insane! Though by rights whenever you throw Trump political reality into anything, the subject matter is going to resemble the plot of a Game of Thrones season minus the heads rolling. What made Raftery's performance so complete, mesmerizing, and intense? The way it started; when he came on stage, high-budget intro video and solid intro music and all, the crowd was like hushed doves waiting for a cage door to open. Like seriously, the pin drop could be actually heard. But, Raftery turned the night into absolute dynamite with one salvo after another directed at breaking the crowd into peels of laughter, and he was never satisfied. When he only received a chuckle at a well-thought out joke, early in the show, he asked, "Can I buy everyone in this audience a round?" When later, only half the audience laughed at a crude sex joke, he asked them to explain it to their neighbors. When the bassist started to act, Raftery stopped him immediately with an impassioned, "Don't Act." Raftery was rage, Raftery was effort; he was BRILLIANT.
Raftery's one-man musical performance was a herculean effort in comedy where the reality of the white house has crushed Ivanka Trump into indecision. Beyond her father's kingdom of tyranny, she can no longer be the one thing she has always wanted to be-and in that folks we have: the set up. In the intro song Raftery in heels, a blonde wig, and a Republican jumpsuit belted out, "The best part of being a Republican is that no one expects you to make any f#$%ing sense now!"(a parody of Shania Twain's Man, I feel like a Woman). And, from there until the end of "Act 1" he serenaded, schmoozed, and eked out every ounce of laughter that he could. He was commanding, demanding, and passionate. And, it all came together when he-as Ivanka-rushed to New York to shop for a dress before her father's latest big speech moment. After miming being attacked by an angry mob of middle-class white women and succumbing to the terror, the ketchup packets, and the little dogs, he turned to the bassist and said, "That's acting." Then grabbed the hand of the nearest audience member, strutted off stage, and pined in a pristine good Ivanka voice, "I just want to be, a New York Society, Girl." (a parody of Disney classic "Part of Your World") while also making fun of Ivanka's inability to be relatable to working women with the line, "running around to those-what do you call them again-jobs."
Everything that I could say about the plot, which was good and thoughtful, wouldn't be enough to capture the essence of what Raftery's show was. He certainly did troll Ivanka even though that wasn't the whole show. The show was less about trashing Ivanka and more about "Ivanka the hero." The hero she could have been and the hero that she still could be. She did after all "blow the whistle" on the Ukraine call even if it was a jewel-encrusted mind-control device. If it's at all possible Raftery grossly undersold his show. All of the pieces together on paper don't make a ton of sense, but when the Manchurian Candidate, Us, and Anastasia are combined on stage the result is absolutely breath taking and one of the best pieces of live theater I've seen in well over 300 shows. Even in the way that he broke the fourth wall there was a depth and nuance to it. Throughout the show, his Ivanka character would say, "I try to stay out of politics," and another character would respond, "B^&*h, you work in the White House" until ultimately she was dancing to a different tune: "Yes buckle up...if I want to, I can get away with anything."
If you want to see what she (Raftery) can get away with: IVANKA 2020 runs at Joe's Pub through March 13, 2020!
Tickets can be purchased here!
Photo Credit: Brendan Burke