So there I was last Nov. 10, still pretty much shell-shocked and reeling following a presidential election whose result I could hardly fathom.
What could these men who so obviously loathed one another possibly have discussed in that room? The awkward and surreal post-meeting media briefing of three minutes supplied few clues. Both spoke in vague generalities and appeared to be in deep emotional pain. The meeting itself had to have been grotesquely difficult.
This all got me to thinking. It was rather like Greek tragedy to have this clash of the titans following such a bitter and divisive campaign during which the president deemed Trump unfit to serve and Trump challenged President Obama's very citizenship.
"He's the founder of ISIS!" Trump declared during one memorable campaign rally.
And now here they were, meeting in the same room, evidently to demonstrate that in the United States of America — no matter how angry and alienated we are — there must be a peaceful transfer of power lest our democracy implode.
It occurred to me that day that someone ought to write a stage play about this. It was simply too delicious a moment not to frame as a form of art. So sure was I of this that, for a few weeks, I kept checking online to see which playwright had announced his or her intention to craft the meeting as a play.
However, it quickly became apparent that no one was going to do what I believed to be a no-brainer. So I did it myself.
The fact I'd never before written a play that had made it to a stage somehow wasn't all that relevant to my mind. Something inside drove me to action. And in tandem with a longtime stage director named Lee Costello, who specialized in turning amateurs into playwrights, I knocked out a rough draft of a script in some two weeks.
What I couldn't know at the time I started this process was that it is indeed a process. Seasoned playwrights often require eight months, 10 months, a year, even several years putting together a script worthy of getting up onto a stage.
But as a journalist, I lacked the patience for this more deliberate course. There was too much going down in the country in the wake of Trump's victory and inauguration to dawdle. I heard a clock ticking over my shoulder that whispered, "Hurry up. This thing could soon be irrelevant. Quickly, quickly!"
This proved the driving incentive behind "Transition," my new play about that Trump-Obama meeting that officially opens tonight at the Lounge Theatre in Hollywood (a short jaunt from Burbank and Glendale) and plays for five weekends with 14 performances through April 16.
What it means, of course, is that this was play-mounting on steroids. The original very raw script went through countless revisions in a very short time. Brilliant actors to play Trump (Harry S. Murphy), Obama (Joshua Wolf Coleman) and a presidential aide (Trevor Alkazian) were secured. A magnificent producer (Racquel Lehrman) and creative team was brought in.
And now here we are, a scant four months (almost to the day) since the meeting itself happened. Yet we've got a polished production in place, which is rather astounding.
More importantly, we've managed to create precisely what I'd envisioned: A theatrical experience that's neither sketch comedy nor satire but an educated 75-minute imagining of what might really have gone on in that room, interspersed with satirical flourishes.
Is it balanced? In truth, no. It's likely that people will come away from "Transition" knowing precisely where the playwright lands on the political spectrum. Yet is it fair to Trump? I believe it is. We portray him as the boorish, narcissistic bully that he is but at the same take him deadly seriously.
The country doesn't need another buffoonish Trump caricature a la Alec Baldwin. But I believed it could use a project that demonstrates the depth of our president's self-serving depravity.
Some will dismiss the play as liberal propaganda, which is their right. But at the least, we have hopefully succeeded in shedding light on what is for many of us a harrowing, nightmarish moment in America.
For "Transition" tickets, go to www.plays411.com/transition.
RAY RICHMOND is a writer in Los Angeles. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.