Streep plays her Trump card

NEW YORK • At the moment that Mrs Hillary Clinton was all but clinching the Democratic nomination for president, Meryl Streep was on a stage in Central Park, impersonating Mr Donald J. Trump.

In orange face make-up and pompadoured hair, Streep, the chameleonic three-time Oscar winner, did a more than credible version of the presumptive Republican nominee, down to the pursed lips and low-hanging belly. She got the braggadocio-inflected voice, too, even while singing.

She was part of the Public Theater's gala benefit celebration on Monday, a tribute to Shakespeare at the Delacorte Theater, home to Shakespeare In The Park. She was the closing act with her Mamma Mia! co-star Christine Baranski, doing Brush Up Your Shakespeare, a number from the 1948 Cole Porter musical Kiss Me, Kate.

"We could do a deal - you'll let me know - why it is all the women say no?" she sang, stretching out her arms in a Trumpian gesture.

Later, she strolled the stage, gesticulating to the audience in Mr Trump's signature "make- America-great-again" style.

Hillary Clinton supporter Meryl Streep impersonated presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as part of the Public Theater’s gala benefit celebration. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES

The song, traditionally a duet for men, offers advice for picking up women - in this case, female voters. Some of the original lyrics were altered, but some could stand as is, for Mr Trump's combative attitude: "If she says your behaviour is heinous, kick her right in the Coriolanus!"

The crowd, which included former mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, Ms Samantha Power, and actress Bette Midler, loved it.

Her performance came as something of a surprise to the event organisers, who knew only that Streep, a supporter of Mrs Clinton's, wanted to take on Mr Trump.

"Utterly her idea, beginning to end," Oskar Eustis, the Public Theater's artistic director, said after the show. "There were sceptics, there were doubters, but one of those sceptics was not Meryl Streep. She was absolutely sure she could do it. None of us had seen her in costume or make-up, till she walked out tonight."

Streep skipped the dinner before the show to get into character and spent time holed up in her dressing room.

"She was showing us this thing that Donald Trump always does," said actress Kate Burton, who shared the dressing room with her. "He apparently does this thing, where he goes to close his jacket but it doesn't close all the way, and so he kind of goes for it and then he tries to close it again."

It was a mannerism that only Streep seemed to catch, Burton said. "She treats this like she would her greatest roles: she's working on it all the time."

Eustis said of Streep, who has appeared at the Delacorte several times in starring roles: "She's willing to try anything and have fun with what she tries. She's just fearless."

Shakespeare In The Park veteran Hamish Linklater called Streep's take "naughty". But, he added, Shakespeare "wanted to be valuable to his times. And she gave a performance that was valuable to her times. So absolutely, she's honouring the spirit of the evening".

On Tuesday, after her name trended on Twitter with news of the Trump portrayal, Streep issued a statement, saying: "I appreciate the interest, but this was a one-off, a once in a (last in a) lifetime appearance of this character."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 09, 2016, with the headline 'Streep plays her Trump card'. Print Edition | Subscribe