POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
By: Paulanne Simmons
May 20. 2022: POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive, a lively new political farce, might have been simply an extended Saturday Night Live sketch that wears thin after the first half hour. But thanks to the spirited and clever writing of Selina Fillinger, director Susan Stroman‘s steady hand and the brilliant ensemble work of a group of talented women, it’s much more. If you need a good belly laugh, head right down to the Shubert Theatre, and do not pass Go.
As the title indicates, POTUS is about seven woman who protect the President from himself and the country from the President. As the play opens, Harriet (Julie White), the President’s chief of staff, and. Jean (Suzy Nakamura), his press secretary, are trying to figure out how to proceed with damage control after he’s said his wife was having a “cunty” morning. They are intermittently assisted by Stephanie (Rachel Dratch), a gofer with low self-esteem she is constantly trying to buttress by repeating self-help mantras
Margaret (Vanessa Williams), the woman of the aforementioned morning, happens to be well -educated and accomplished. She’s a patron of the arts and a philanthropist. It’s not clear why she puts up with the President’s frequent affairs and general stupidity. We know it certainly isn’t love.
As the play progresses, Fillinger introduces new complications. Dusty (Julianne Hough), cheerful and filled with youthful energy, arrives to celebrate with the President the coming birth of their child. Chris (Lilli Cooper), a lactating journalist, has booked an interview with Margaret but is really trying to find out where the bodies are buried. Bernadette (Lea DeLaria), the president’s drug-dealing, butch sister, newly released from prison, is looking to sell drugs and settle down. But even these women eventually get on board with saving the day, if not the President.
It would be cruel to reveal too much in this always surprising comedy. Suffice to say, with the help of scenic designer Beowulf Boritt’s turntable set, we move quickly from one ridiculous event to the next. These developments include an accidental (and hilarious) drug overdose, the reuniting of unlikely lovers, a possible murder and a cover-up for the possible murder. The verbal humor sometimes becomes physical. And the action sometimes even spills out into the house.
The President never actually appears in the show, although his legs have a big part in the slapstick. This is entirely fitting, as the comedy is not really about the President but rather the havoc he wreaks through his veniality and insouciance.
At various times during the show, the women speculate on the possibility of one of them becoming President. In fact, any of them would be better than the nincompoop who is continually bringing the country to the brink of disaster. When you consider that one of these women is a cheerleader and another is an ex-con, that’s saying a lot.
POTUS runs through August 14 at the Shubert Theatre, 225 West 44 Street.
Photography: Paul Kolnik