Michael Moore Strikes a Flint and Lights a Fire

Bette Midler may not be getting better or stronger entrance applause.

At THE TERMS OF MY SURRENDER, a tsunami of handclaps greets Michael Moore when he lumbers onto the Belasco stage. The documentarian, author and prognosticator gets a white-hot warm welcome from theatergoers.

(There is a stage-filling projection of Donald Trump, but I suspect that Moore’s attendees aren’t applauding that.

My heart sinks, though, when a stand-up microphone is positioned center stage. Not having that enormous image of Trump move all night would be awful enough; Moore’s continually standing in one spot would rate a solid second place on the list of disappointments.

Indeed, why have a stand-up mike when many more sophisticated means of amplification are readily available? The problem with any large-headed microphone is that it obscures the speaker’s mouth and removes us a bit from what’s being said.

Happily for me and many, neither situation pulls an all-nighter. Eventually the microphone disappears and the stage gets a smidgen of scenery before the nearly two-hour intermissionless show concludes. Look closely and you’ll even see a MAMMA MIA! mug from which Moore surreptitiously sips.

Trump disappears, too — well, at least his picture does. The 45th chief executive will, as you might expect, show up time and time again in Moore’s almost one-man show.

Almost. There are some walk-ons, including two brave souls recruited from the audience. At least at my performance, they got big laughs.

Moore assumes he’s among friends, for he uses the expression “our side” when referring to politics. “We are the majority and we have no power,” he says, referring to the popular vote. “Why have we allowed this to happen?”

“Donald Trump outsmarted us all.”

That includes “the 53% of white women” who voted for — you should pardon the expression – a vagina grabber.

He surmises that the country has been dumbed down over the past 30 years. “Trump knew this America because he helped to create it.”

The Trump references don’t make up the entire night; the percentage can be estimated at about a third, quite similar to the president’s current approval rating. Moore, aware that the best comedy is always taken from real life, reads the 59 items that we are now forbidden to take on an airplane. The list (and some visual aids) got some of the performance’s most solid laughs.

There are sobering statistics, too. Sixty percent of Americans wouldn’t be able to afford a plane ticket if they had to attend a faraway funeral.

In one scene, there’s a ribbon of electronically printed news – such as the one you see on the Condé Nast Building at 42nd Street where Seventh Avenue and Broadway crisscross. If my performance is typical, Moore and his staff are hard at work before each performance, for events that had happened only hours before were trotted out in front of us.

Moore saw firsthand the remnants of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp; even a Holocaust denier might change his off-key tune after he hears this report. Other potent nuggets include Moore’s detailing the considerable ramifications from his controversial Oscar speech.

And then there was Glenn Beck’s May 17, 2005 radio broadcast. For those who have forgotten or have never known about the Mormon incendiary’s monologue, Moore plays a recording to remind or inform.

Beck cavalierly says “I’m thinking about killing Michael Moore. And I’m wondering if I could kill him myself or if I would need to hire somebody to do it. I think I could. I think he could be looking me in the eye, you know. And I could just be choking the life out of him. Is this wrong?”

(We know the answer to that question, don’t we?)

Beck even says that a deterrent from Jesus Christ himself would merely make him “not sure” of whether or not to proceed with the murder.

Make that “assassination,” a term used for the murder of someone significant. Moore proves time and time again that he’s earned that label, especially when relating a moving story about his hometown of Flint, Michigan. It may make many who vote newcomers into government decide that the politician you know is better than the business-man-turned-rookie-politician that you don’t.

THE TERMS OF MY SURRENDER is ultimately not. Moore buoys those who have come to feel that all is lost. Changing the senate and house majorities from Republican-controlled is, he believes, achievable.

He may well be right. Moore tells why his father refused to join the Elks which inspired young Michael to do more than just agree. It’s a potent story that reveals that the roots of his resistance started at 17.

More to the point –or Moore to the point? — the tale substantiates the theme of the show: one person can make a difference and a substantial one at that. Even something as seemingly irrelevant as Ruffles, the ridged potato chip, can set in motion change for the better. So can one New Jersey librarian in these days of social media.

Maybe you’ll be inspired to be yet another single person to effect change. And what would happen if the 1,018 people who are filling the Belasco each night were so inspired? There’d be some changes made, wouldn’t there?