Perhaps the most simultaneously intriguing and horrifying cultural phenomenon this year was not a movie, television show, or play but rather the theatrical absurdity of our political system.
Indeed, the unprecedented political landscape of President Trump’s administration has created scenarios more outlandish than the most far-fetched episode of Veep, more tense than any episode of 24, and more cringeworthy than the most awkward moments of Curb Your Enthusiasm. Filled with more morally ambiguous characters than Game of Thrones and more unforeseen twists than Survivor, the Trump Administration has truly been a terrifying, riveting narrative. However, while the aforementioned shows are ultimately designed to entertain, Mr. Trump’s administration is all too real.
Throughout this chaotic news cycle, one woman has distinguished herself as a particularly notable character: Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Ms. Sanders stars in a one-woman show nearly every day, performing to an audience of journalists in her White House Press Briefings. And to be clear, her briefings are theater — Ms. Sanders spends her briefings articulating her spurious lines, which consist of intentionally misleading “alternative facts.”
This is not to say that Ms. Sanders is a poor performer — she’s not. In fact, she drastically outshines her predecessor, Sean Spicer, by adding an unfazed temperament to her performance that he lacked. Whereas Mr. Spicer seemed to show some semblance of remorse for intentionally misinforming the American people, Ms. Sanders brings an unperturbed facade to her performance that Mr. Spicer could not seem to muster.
Undoubtedly, one of the highlights of her show is her improvisation segments. Ms. Sanders allows select audience members to ask her questions, which she impressively manages to evade, spin, and twist. Her control over her stage (and her audience) is nearly unparalleled in contemporary theater.
For example, in one of Ms. Sanders’ first shows, TIME Magazine White House correspondent Zeke Miller asked whether the White House transition was “chaotic.” Without missing a beat, Ms. Sanders assuredly replied, “No, I don’t see it as chaotic.” As Mr. Miller tried to rephrase his question, Ms. Sanders joked, “You want to see chaos, Zeke, you should come to my house early in the morning when my three kids are running around. That’s chaos.” As laughter erupted in the audience, Ms. Sanders immediately transitioned to the next question, effectively ending Mr. Miller’s line of interrogation. This impressive, deliberate control over her audience allows her to inculcate her message clearly and without opposition.
Ms. Sanders’ emotional temperament, her finely-tuned control over her expressions and inflection, allows her to be one of the most effective and remarkable actresses in theater this year. Unfortunately for us, her show is non-fiction.