Last weekend I saw a play at Berkeley Rep called “It Can’t Happen Here,” based on Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 satirical novel of the same name. The plot unfolds like so: fictional presidential candidate Buzz Windrip runs against FDR in the 1936 election. Windrip is a businessman with no political experience who runs a campaign based on fear, racism, and impossible promises. The people, who admire his “sense of humor,” his unfiltered speech, and his unabashed bigotry, elect him as president. In act 2, the country dissolves into chaos.
All orange-toned bluster and anti-everyone vitriol, the current Republican candidate is so startlingly similar to Windrip that it is hard to believe that Lewis’ novel was written 80 years ago. The tumultuous dissolution of American ideals under Windrip’s presidency eerily echoes our own fears about 2017. As Jacob Weisberg wrote earlier this year in Slate, “The conflict in the 2016 campaign is no longer Trump versus his Republican opponents; it is now Trump versus the American political system.” The man’s hot-aired and oft-nonsensical zealotry is meant to rouse the dissatisfied and disenfranchised. And it’s working; a reality star and businessman of dubious success is breaths away from gaining access to the nuclear codes.
It’s worth mentioning that both Lewis’ novel and the new play adaptation drip with melodrama. Trump is not Windrip and Windrip is not real. The rapid descent into authoritarian dictatorship and the demise of American democracy as we know it – though good fodder for fiction – are probably unlikely. Still, it is art’s duty to imagine the world as it is and as it may be, “It Can’t Happen Here” is a brilliant, well-acted cautionary tale. And after all, there is no precedent for this situation. We’ve never had a major party candidate quite like Trump. You can read more about the play in this excellent New Yorker review.
Despite the polls (all of them) that suggest Trump will lose, we won’t really know how the presidential election will turn out until November 8. And for many of us, a Drumpf presidency is the scariest horror story of all. So go out and vote. Research the issues and learn about the candidates running in your local elections. It’s up to us to guide the future of our country.
On a lighter note, yesterday was Halloween! It’s one of my favorite times of the year, partially because people don’t look at me crazy for prancing about in costume (#actorproblems). I love seeing everyone dressing up, being playful, and embracing their inner child. It’s ok and good and important to have fun! Especially when so many things in the world are feeling bleak.
And now, on to Christmas music 😈🎄
Love and theatre,