Review by Judith Robinson
Actor, David Lundy, gives a stellar performance as the outspoken 33rd U.S. President, Harry S Truman (the “S” stand for nothing), in Buffalo’s New Phoenix Theatre-on-the-Park’s production of “Give ‘em Hell, Harry”. Samuel Gallu’s one man play, first mounted in 1975, is the perfect pre-election show.
Perhaps Harry Truman was the president who had the most to say about protecting regular citizens from corporate greed. Although he came from a business background in the early part of the twentieth century, Truman didn’t pussy foot around in condemning the powerful who attempted to crush the weak. It as if Truman foresaw the degeneration of the Middle Classes.
He made no bones about warning Americans, that they were going to have to fight to keep big business from taking everything for itself. In the current climate of Trumpism, this production is a must-see.
It is an exhausting role for Lundy—two hours of nonstop talking directly to the audience—with only a few phone calls and reenacted moments to break the commentary. In this fast-talking, no nonsense discussion of presidential do’s and don’ts, there are plenty of laughs and entertaining moments, but underneath it all is an undercurrent of danger and foreboding.
For Truman fans, it’s a great feast. For those who don’t know Truman, it’s a kaleidoscope of fascinating facts and images—almost too many to catch. But all of them are completely relevant to the contemporary climate. Truman was a prophet who was underappreciated in his time. In his wise words lie the antidote to bragging bruisers like Trump—an appeal for a grassroots binding together in humility and solidarity—demonstrated in the former president’s whistle stop train tour to every village across America.
A lifelong Truman fan, Lundy made a recent visit to the Truman presidential library—bringing back information he incorporated into the show. This is not a role for Lundy—it’s a mission. The actor leads talkbacks after the performances—answering audiences’ questions about the fine details of the president’s life. He has become a Truman scholar. It is worth going to the show in Buffalo just to take part in the talkback.
Give ‘em Hell Harry is playing at the New Phoenix Theatre on the Park in Buffalo until October 29th.