The line between political reporting and parody is blurrier than ever these days, especially since Donald Trump launched his presidential run. It's not always obvious whether a headline comes from the Los Angeles Times or the Onion.
The straight and spoof news organizations might as well have switched roles: The newspapers can be so unintentionally hilarious and outrageous, so full of biting social satire, that we must turn to our satirists for the facts.
The Second City Hollywood's new show, "In Trump We Trust" — a musical — portrays the Donald's career as the accidental outcome of goofy political machinations. While it is funny, it also makes a surprising amount of sense.
This clear-eyed, rough-and-ready satire is the brainchild of its writer and director, Dave Colan, who also stars as Trump. A master of his subject's smirk and verbal tics, and appropriately equipped with orange makeup and a lusciously tousled ash-blond wig, Colan is so much larger than Trump physically that his inflated appearance comes across as the consequence of our attention. The more we watch, the bigger he grows. (Trump's insecurity about his small hands becomes particularly absurd when they are enormous.)
Some of Colan's best material is lifted straight from reality. But routines this taut and satisfying require firm guidance. Dan Wessels' music and lyrics are sprightly and to the point. (He accompanies the cast live on the keyboard.) With no set to speak of and minimal costumes, the show, although scripted, gives off the whimsical, anything-goes air of improv.
Colan occasionally swats at low-hanging fruit (it's hard to avoid), and some of the supporting characters are more effective than others. Mirage Thrams' Dennis Rodman, who plays an unexpectedly integral role in the plot, outstays his welcome. (Thrams is more entertaining as Ben Carson.) Christa Nannos as Ivanka is poised and radiant, but her role is a bit too thin for its stage time. Allison Bills, who plays Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton, among other roles, proves a secret weapon, capturing her characters' off-putting qualities while making them endearing.
Still, "In Trump We Trust" is unlikely to appeal to Trump supporters. (Its title pays ironic homage to a book that Ann Coulter is reportedly writing.) Yet, in spite of the many flaws this Trump displays, we can't help but, well, kind of like him.
"This show was hard to write," Colan said at the curtain call, "because we had to make Trump human, so that people would want to spend time with him. But don't be fooled. He's a monster, and he shouldn't be president."
Parody may not be an effective tool for Colan to fight this "monster." He seems to feed on it. But for audiences, it's irresistible.
"In Trump We Trust," the Second City Hollywood Studio Theatre, 6560 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles. 9 p.m. Saturdays. Ends Aug. 13. $12. (323) 464-8542 or second city.com. Running time: 1 hour.