There’s a new, female empowered song and dance show in town. No it’s not the one about the women married to King Henry VIII (Six). Although POTUS weaves a different tale of woe, it shares similarities with those merry wives of Windsor.
At just 28, Selina Fillinger makes an impressive Broadway debut in her play with a long title and even longer laughs. Subtitled Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive, her farce follows the plight of a presidential administration after the free world leader utters a crass term in front of high-level reporters.
Julie White leads the cast as Chief-of-Staff Harriet, a cynical sarcastic type who-in an attempt at damage control- questions whether “this day about to become an oozing pustule on the anus of my week? Or is everything fine?” With Jean (Suzy Nakamura), the press secretary, the pair brainstorm on how to move forward.
Meanwhile, First Lady Margaret (Vanessa Williams) is eagerly trying to meet with her husband while lamenting to Stephanie (Rachel Dratch), the President’s loyal secretary that “it’s not enough to be wildly accomplished and deeply effective.” Margaret has “launched free lunch programs in 6000 public schools but all Twitter can twat about are the stilettos I wore to one homeless shelter.”
Lilli Cooper, Julianne Hough, and Lea Delaria round out this star-studded cast, respectively as Chris, a journalist, Dusty, the President’s mistress, and Bernadette, the President’s crime laced sister. The combination alone suggests a smorgasbord of antics.
It makes sense that Susan Stroman is the guiding hand behind this production. The five-time Tony Award winner is best known for her stunning choreography and although POTUS is not a dance show nor musical, it is a perfectly timed and well executed exercise in the soft-shoe machinations of office politics.
On the surface, it could be taken as commentary on the real estate buffoon who rose to the oval office. Yet Fillinger describes the setting in the script: “Perhaps not the current administration, exactly—but broad strokes of the last, combined with stress dreams of the next. And if we’re being honest, an amalgamation of them all….” Her incisive take on the patriarchy well extends far past the reaches of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, creeping insidiously into homes and offices around the world.
Tony award winner White is a particular stand-out among this excellent company. She turns what would otherwise be throw-away lines or reactions into bits of comic gold.
Beowulf Boritt’s turntable set adds much to the high-stake high jinks, and Linda Cho’s costumes are expertly tailored to match each character’s personalities- including an unfortunate pair of white crocs worn by the First Lady.
Fillinger’s farce forces us to think about why we have so long elected, defended, and/or supported mediocre men but leaves us with the hope that competent women will rise and one day, gain the long overdue respect and power they so richly deserve-and she does it in such hilarious manner than even incompetent men will thank her for it.
POTUS is now running on Broadway through August 14th at the Shubert Theater (225 West 44th Street between 8th and Broadway). For tickets and information, click here.