In any event, the show (which runs just under two hours, without intermission) is a fun and freewheeling night of theater for Moore's fans and anyone else who wants to attend.
THE TERMS OF MY SURRENDER Broadway Reviews
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‘Terms of My Surrender’ review: Michael Moore's Trump-targeted play offers freewheeling night of theater
As the Bard once said, or nearly so: "To thine own audience be true." Michael Moore, that renowned, brashly-impudent political provocateur, knows his audience. He has always been keen at smelling fresh blood in the air, usually facing off against one Goliath or another; and he is known for ambushing his particular bogey man with lacerating skill and buoyant relish. Setting his sights on you-know-who-the nominal leader of our great land, presently in self-imposed exile from his abode twelve blocks up the avenue from the Belasco-Moore plucks his prey, like a pre-Thanksgiving turkey; stuffs a juicy crabapple in its mouth, like a Christmas suckling pig; and sets the roaster on slow burn.
If you're wondering what Moore considers the "terms" of his surrender, he says so toward night's end: Dump President Trump. And dump Vice President Pence. By its conclusion, "Surrender" becomes his plea to the audience to do something small, such as running for a local office, in an effort to change the country's direction. This is a man so comfortable with confrontation, it would be fascinating to see him take "Surrender" on the road. I can think of a few places the audience wouldn't be nearly as friendly as New York, which would make for an even more electrifying event.
Moore's easygoing rapport with the audience goes a long way in these memories, and in stories of death threats. That includes real ones involving weapons and a figurative when "Dancing with the Stars" asked Moore to be on the show, an inviation he likened to a death notice. Tony-winning director Michael Mayer ("Spring Awakening") keeps things rolling smoothly.
The bottom line: Moore is down these days, but given what he sees as America's growing liberal bent, don't count him out just yet. And despite the title of his show, surrendering is not an option. Another surprise is reading in the Playbill that Moore, long regarded as Public Enemy Number One by the National Rifle Association (NRA), is actually a card-carrying NRA member who won their Marksman Award years ago. It's no wonder he hit the target with this one, even if he is preaching to the choir.
Michael Moore takes on Trump in this entertaining Broadway debut - The Terms of My Surrender, Belasco Theatre, New York, review
It's a lot to pack into a two-hour show, but Moore is a fairly sturdy anchor, and he can certainly inspire a crowd. "Reach down and do that thing you're afraid of doing," he prompts. For him, it's dancing, but for someone in his audience, it may be that run for political office.
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.
If your liberal heart is mighty sore, if no amount of strongly-voiced castigation and disapproval of President Trump is too much, then documentary-maker Michael Moore's The Terms of My Surrender is for you. Left-wing politics has come overtly and brashly to Broadway-the only things missing are Trump piñatas to bash the hell out of at intermission.
Michael Moore's solo show, "The Terms of My Surrender," comes as close to being a campaign rally as anything you are likely to see on Broadway - or anywhere else, for that matter, save an actual one. Taking the stage of the Belasco Theatre to the kind of frenzied adoration currently being enjoyed on Broadway only by Bette Midler, the liberal filmmaker and author flings at his audience plenty of red meat dripping with contempt for Donald Trump, the country's current "president," as Moore puts it, fingers winking air quotes. And yet this shaggy but enjoyable evening, an autobiographical solo show spliced with a rabble-rousing call to arms against the reigning political regime, contains more surprises - and more funny diversions - than I expected.
The personal anecdotes are interesting, but that librarian story illustrates the main message of this rally - that "one person out of nowhere can make a revolution." "You do make a difference," Moore insists, urging everyone in his audience to run for local office and work up to higher office. "I refuse to live in Trump's America!" he swears, bringing the event the closest to a political rally. "Trump goes!" (wild applause) "Pence goes! (more thunder).
The Terms of My Surrender is heartfelt and represents the thinking and ideology of a crucial voice of dissent and opposition at a time direly in need of such voices. But it's a lazy show that severely underestimates it audience. Preaching to the choir is one thing; pandering to to (sic) it is of a somewhat lower order.
First of all, because it's almost entirely unsurprising. In an interview with Time Out, Moore promises that "for 87 minutes, you're going to experience something you're not expecting" (the show runs 110 minutes, by the way), but my feelings upon leaving the Belasco Theatre can best be summed up with a long sigh. If I had had to make a guess as to what a Michael Moore Broadway show would feel like, this would have been pretty much it. The Terms of My Surrender feels like a live version of my Facebook feed: a few good stories and a boatload of preaching to the choir (add requisite helpings of self-congratulation and liberal-on-liberal shaming for full effect).
Michael Moore, though, is betting on just the opposite. With his new Trump-centric one-man show, The Terms of My Surrender, the documentarian and liberal firebrand is taking on the president seven days a week, using his powers of pomp and provocation to inspire in audiences the kind of righteous indignation he's been expressing for decades. If the Great White Way seems a place ill-suited for the political humorist's brand of populism, he's hoping audiences view the show less as a lecture and more as a call to action.
When the Oscar-winning documentarian announced his show in May, a sign next to him asked, "Can a Broadway show bring down a sitting President?" In the run-up to opening night, he was everywhere - Facebook, Twitter, "Late Show With Stephen Colbert," "Morning Joe." By the time "The Terms of My Surrender" opened at the Belasco Theatre on Thursday night, you had to wonder if you'd already heard it all.
Still, you don't have to disagree with Mr. Moore's politics to find that his shtick has become disagreeable with age. "The Terms of My Surrender," which opened on Thursday at the Belasco, is a bit like being stuck at Thanksgiving dinner with a garrulous, self-regarding, time-sucking uncle. Gotta love him - but maybe let's turn on the television.
"The Terms of My Surrender" makes vain gestures in the direction of a variety show. ("Dancing With the Stars," a silly leitmotif, is both a nightmare and a tempting dream for this capped bear with two left feet.) But Moore isn't the secret vaudevillian no one ever suspected him of being. His comedy (he does a bit on the outlandish items the TSA forbids in carry-on luggage) is as galumphing as his cursory musical interludes.
"The Terms of My Surrender," which officially opened on Thursday night on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre, turns out to be pretty much exactly what you'd expect: A nearly two-hour monologue in which Moore cracks wise about and harangues against President Donald Trump, with frequent, quintessentially Moore-ian lapses into self-aggrandizement and self-congratulation.
Offering up as a model his history as a provocateur, Moore implores us to get off our duffs and drive Trump nuts. "We have to be a swarm of bees around his head," he declares at one point. Besides showing us an app, 5calls.org, that can automatically dial your representatives in Congress for you, "The Terms of My Surrender" doesn't have much of a game plan. That goes as much for its theatrical goals as its political ones.
Moore takes us on an indulgent and meandering tour around some of his achievements, whether it was standing for the management board of his high school after he graduated as a teenager or protesting against President Reagan's appearance at a Nazi cemetery in Bitburg, Germany. Not all of this is very theatrical. Moore and his director Michael Mayer, however, keep it entertaining by introducing various set pieces, such as a quiz between two members of the audience that pits the most intelligent American against the dumbest Canadian Moore can find.