Why Isn’t She President?: “POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive”

From left: Laura Latreille, Monique Ward Lonergan, Lisa Yuen, Catia, and Crystin Gilmore. Photo by Nile Scott.

Presented by SpeakEasy Stage Company
By Selina Fillinger
Directed by Paula Plum
Fighting and intimacy choreography by Angie Jepson
Featuring Marianna Bassham, Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda, Catia, Crystin Gilmore, Laura Latreille, Monique Ward Lonergan, Lisa Yuen

Sept. 15 – Oct. 15, 2023
Audio Description: Friday, October 6, 2023 at 8pm; Saturday, October 14, 2023 at 2pm
Open Captioning: Saturday, October 7, 2023 at 8pm; Sunday, October 8, 2023 at 3pm
BCA Roberts Studio Theatre
527 Tremont Street
Boston, MA

Critique by Kitty Drexel

BOSTON, Mass. — POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive is hardcore intersectional feminism! It is raunchy*, it is absurd, and it is the funniest 110 minutes you’ll spend in the theatre this fall.

Paula Plum directs a cast of brilliant, multi-hyphenate actors in SpeakEasy’s production of POTUS at the Roberts Studio Theatre. Playbill summarizes POTUS thusly: “It’s just another (omg, wtf, LMFAO) day at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. When a White House PR nightmare spins into a legit sh*tshow, seven brilliant and beleaguered women must risk life, liberty, and the pursuit of sanity to keep the commander-in-chief out of trouble. POTUS, or Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive is a bawdy and irreverent look at sex, politics, and the women in charge of the man in charge of the free world…”

The kooky, unhinged White House administration of POTUS may or may not remind viewers of a certain, recent vulgar President’s tenure. In her exclusive interview with SpeakEasy, Selina Fillinger said, “Republicans think (POTUS) is about Bill Clinton. Democrats think it’s about Donald Trump – and everyone has a good laugh.”

Fillinger continues, the play isn’t about either President. It’s about White Patriarchy. So, if you didn’t enjoy the Barbie movie or you hate fun, maybe POTUS isn’t for you.

POTUS is a hell of a lot of fun. The ensemble, led by Lisa Yuen and Laura Latreille, gets down and dirty with Fillinger’s script. There’s scene-chewing and slushie spewing. Plum and fight choreographer Angie Jepson stage the cast into and out of gut-splitting physical comedy.

Marianna Bassham dominates the stage as mid-life crisis-on-legs staff secretary Stephanie. Without revealing too much about her poor character’s journey, Bassham dives torso-first into her physically demanding role. She literally and figuratively bares herself in a number of uncomfortable situations. A lesser actor might be diminished. Bassham (and Stephanie) come through like a shining (albeit moistly disheveled) star.

Bassham gets a special recommendation here, but all of the cast members are exceptional. Carlisle-Zepeda throws zingy one-liners. Catia rocks a milk stain. Gilmore gives Michelle Obama in her earthy*, heeled Crocs. Latreille makes her panic attacks look easy. Ward Lonergan killed at her mediator dance battle rap. Yuen carries the show and throws it back at us. Together they make a damn fine ensemble.

From left: Catia, Marianna Bassham, and Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda. Photo by Nile Scott.

Were I to offer any constructive feedback, it would be to suggest the cast lean in and let go even more. Let the absurdity take you away like Calgon. The United States’ politics is a dumpster fire of unprecedented terrors. Let POTUS be a cathartic release. Kamala Harris knows, we ladies (and non-binaries) could use one.

This is your gentle reminder that intimacy direction should be conducted by an individual who performs no other roles in a production. This separation from other duties such as fight direction allows an intimacy director to be impartial to all other aspects of that production. An ID functions as an advocate for the cast’s needs and should do so without the production’s internal politics interfering with intimacy work.

Angie Jepson fulfilled both roles with aplomb and to great success. But, she shouldn’t have to. Any show requiring both an intimacy director and a fight director should budget for both. If a show can’t afford both (or wishes to cut costs), the company may produce a different show.

POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive is extra-slappy slapstick. SpeakEasy’s site describes it as “9 to 5 meets Veep.” How adorably insufficient.

POTUS is better described as Veep meets an actual train wreck meets Girls Trip (2017) or, even imaginary film I just made up, John Wick 5: Puppy Punches Up. This show hits the ground cunty and does not lose steam.

A nice elderly couple walking to the T ahead of us after the show were voicing their shock and dismay. They weren’t prepared for POTUS. Methinks the gentleman was unprepared for Women! Being Naughty! Onstage! For the Public! His lady companion seemed okay with it. They didn’t do their proper research.

Please prepare yourself accordingly. Bring your teenage daughters.

*Dictionary.com says that raunchy and earthy are synonyms.

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