Trump, Trauma and a War That Won’t Go Away | Modern Society of USA

Trump, Trauma and a War That Won’t Go Away

Trump, Trauma and a War That Won’t Go Away

At the end of “The Pussy Grabber Plays,” a program of eight short works that made a raucous debut late Monday night at Joe’s Pub, six women who had been instrumental in their creation crowded onto the small stage at the Public Theater to take a bow with the actors.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, each of them — Rachel Crooks, Tasha Dixon, Jill Harth, Sam Holvey, Natasha Stoynoff and Karena Virginia — publicly accused Donald Trump of sexual harassment or assault. Now each had allowed her story to be the basis for one of these plays, which collectively form an act of vehement feminist protest.

The comedian Judy Gold, who was part of the cast, looked at them standing there. “Well, apparently,” she said, “the president likes tall women.” Except that instead of saying “president,” she used a vulgarity. Then she raised two middle fingers in the air and used another one, her anger on the women’s behalf perfectly in tune with the evening.

Mr. Trump has denied their accounts. But these plays — even the funniest of them — vibrate with fury and disgust, and they’re poised to go wide. On Tuesday, in the lead-up to the second anniversary of Mr. Trump’s inauguration and the women’s marches that followed, the scripts became available royalty-free for production, as long as the proceeds benefit an organization that supports women.

The pieces here aren’t works of documentary theater. “Miss USA,” by Sharyn Rothstein and Sharon Kenny, is a straight-up mini musical. Bess Wohl’s “Jessica” (based on the story of Jessica Leeds, who was not at the one-night-only staging at Joe’s Pub) involves a trippily surreal visit to Megyn Kelly’s hour of the “Today” show. “The Interview,” by Ms. Stoynoff and Melissa Li, vents its ire in a comic aria.

Yet these plays are grounded in trauma, which made this the second such show I’d seen in two days. Because Ms. Dixon performed as herself in Julia Brownell’s “Five Beauty Queens Walk Into a Bar” (and Ms. Crooks, very briefly, did likewise in Halley Feiffer’s “Rachels”), it was also the second show in which the people whose stories I was hearing were right there onstage.

The other production, which in many ways could not be more unlike this collection, is “Minefield,” a staggeringly powerful and humane examination of war that ended its Under the Radar festival run on Sunday at N.Y.U. Skirball. (Remaining dates on its United States tour are Jan. 26 at Fairfield University in Connecticut and Jan. 31 to Feb. 2 at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.)

The Argentine writer-director Lola Arias has assembled a cast of six men — three veterans of the Argentine military, three of the British military — to recount their experiences of fighting on opposite sides in the Falklands War, a 1980s conflict that might seem to be of little interest to Americans.

Yet Ms. Arias wields the tools of documentary theater with such dexterity, and her performers have so transparently lived with the damage that the war wrought on them, that their recollections feel utterly universal. “Minefield” becomes the kind of theater that will give some people flashbacks and others vital insight, depending on their personal history.

So do the “Grabber” plays. Two of the pieces in that show, Anna Ziegler’s “Sat Nam” and Sam Chanse’s “Credible Women,” look at the ways that women are socialized into silence. If you can’t overcome your fear of being rude, or of causing hurt feelings, how are you ever going to work up the courage to call someone out for harming you?

“Based on the bravery of Jill Harth,” “Based on the bravery of Tasha Dixon.” “Based on the bravery of Rachel Crooks.” That’s what it says in the “Grabber” program after the titles of individual plays: a statement of awe at Mr. Trump’s accusers for stepping into the media glare.

Revisiting fraught memories onstage takes enormous daring, too — for those women, and for the “Minefield” men. To most of us, the events in these plays were stories in the headlines. To these people, though, this was life.

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