Theater Review: NIMROD (Theatre of NOTE)

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by William C. on February 14, 2023

in Theater-Los Angeles


Mixed with the contradictory language of William Shakespeare and Trump-speak, Nimrod is a gut-busting, refreshing, sharp, irreverent, and often cacophonous satirical play delivered by a big, superbly talented cast at Theatre of NOTE. Phinneas Kiyomura is The Bard of our time — writing in the form of Shakespeare’s comedies — and shows his prowess in succinctly capturing the madness of our modern political landscape. The iconoclastic juxtapositional world created by director Alina Phelan draws on SNL‘s take of the Trump era. From the gender-bending of deplorable powerful men in alt-right politics to the front-facing direction, the production is ready to be shot on the soundstage of 30 Rock.

Kirsten Vangsness

It’s the final year of Nimrod’s (Kirsten Vangsness; it’s Trump) administration. The soundscape of Neo-Nazi chants angrily performed by our enthusiastic company helps resituate the audience back — WAY back — to 2019. Meet First Lady Lani (Hiwa Chow Elms; it’s Melania Trump) with her privates in the face of her security detail, Carver (Edward Moravcsik). Ecstatic about her husband’s pending departure from the White House, First Lady Lani basks in self-indulgence and lays out her great expectations for the exciting times — and wealth –ahead with her handsome, fitter and much younger lover. As with a comedie, a wrench was quickly thrown in — Nimrod is rumored to be running for a second term.

Robert Paterno, Josh Odsess-Rubin, Lisa Clifton and Hiwa Chow Elms

The play slowly spins out of control courtesy of the car crash that is Nimrod’s administration. There are the redacted prenup papers, the missing documents, the Russian connection, the ketchup wall, and even a wild boar — Trump 2.0. Will Lani get to protect her son Duke (Asha Noel Iyer; it’s Baron Trump) and get her promised treasure trove? Will Nimrod successfully win a second term to secure his family’s chokehold on democracy? Well, you all know how it ends, but trust me, you want to watch how all the shit hits the fan. Plus, there are narcissistic zoophilic acts committed. You will have trouble keeping your mouth closed between laughter and gasping for breath. It’s a party.

Lisa Clifton, Isaiah Alexander, Shayne Eastin, Niall Sulcer and Kirsten Vangsness

The cast is incredible. Vangsness, the titular star, and producer, is absolutely hilarious in her portrayal of Donald Trump. Her hyperbolic performance captures his likeness in such bewildering ways that it is simply a work of art on its own. The most astounding part is when she delivers ludicrous gibberish prose while expressing believable emotional turmoil on stage. Elms is a force of nature on the stage. Her commanding presence helps clarify the storyline and gives the narrative much-needed grounding. Her portrayal of a contrasting and dynamic character is perfectly executed and shows a mature range of craft.

Kirsten Vangsness and Chloe Madriaga

The physical comedy of the Nimrod family, as portrayed by Shayne Eastin, Isaiah Alexander, and Niall Sulcer, is on point. Hats off to Sierra Marcks‘s hilarious portrayal of Ghouliardi (it’s Rudy Giuliani); it echoes much from Kate Mackenon’s take on the same character, but with much more daring and creepiness. Sarah Lilly (Blandon, one of many villains) is the most impactful on stage — this incredible actress shines with a blend of her skills delivering iambic pentameter whizzingly while taking a subtle approach to her character.

Edward Moravcsik, Hiwa Chow Elms and Josh Odsess-Rubin

Overall, the production design is effective, but the execution and fabrication are a little on the rustic side. The scenic and property design by Bill Vorhees is more functional than aesthetically pleasing. The faux marble texture desperately needs a gloss coat to finish the look, and the stacked roman columns look like cat-playing trees. Kimberly Freed‘s jumpsuits are a strong choice for the characters but their inclusion is ambiguous.

Asha Noel Iyer and Hiwa Chow Elms

On the other hand, Clay Hickson‘s presidential seal design is simply spot on. It deserves to be displayed beyond the run of this show. Matt Richter and Jason T. Lamoreaux‘s music and sound design add much to the discordant soundscape and is quite playful.

Joel Scher and Edward Moravcsik

This is theater that reminds me why we need theater. It is thoughtful, cunning, sharp, and wild. After all the madness that we have survived — the previous administration, the rise of Nazism and xenophobia, attacks on reproductive rights, and the threat of the downfall of our democracy — we need this. As the old saying goes, “Laughter is the best medicine.” Head to Theatre of NOTE to laugh yourself silly, and then, maybe, some toxic weight from the past few years will be lifted from your soul.

The company of Theatre of NOTE's World Premiere production of NIMROD

photos by  Jenny Graham

Theatre of NOTE, 1517 N Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood
Thurs-Sat at 8; Sun at 2; ends on March 19, 2023
for tickets, call 323-856-8611 or visit Theatre of NOTE
facial coverings required

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