If “The West Wing” were made a live stage show, all males banished and a series of coke snorted before the curtain went up, it could look something like “POTUS,” the hyperactive new farce that opened on Broadway Wednesday .
One hour and 45 minutes, with one intermission. At the Shubert Theater, 225 W 44th Street.
Selina Fillinger’s weird and wired comedy imagines a White House fiasco in which the President — we never meet him or anyone else with a Y chromosome — publicly makes a rude remark about the First Lady (Vanessa Williams) and a Crew of panicked female employees left behind to clean up their PR mess.
And what a mess it is. The situation behind the scenes immediately spirals out of control, well beyond the realm of believability. In Beowulf Boritt’s ever-changing rooms and hallways, there’s a death, a drug trip, and gallons of blue-tinged vomit.
At first the romp is captivating, sustained by a truly brilliant cast of comedians who embrace and explode the qualities that have made them famous. Then, in Act 2, the settings become so unwieldy and ridiculous that it becomes an episode of Hoarders: Broadway Edition. Someone had to come in with gloves and a garbage bag and do some major clearing out.
As if it were the end credits of a “Benny Hill” episode, White House Chief of Staff Harriet (Julie White), assistant Stephanie (Rachel Dratch), press secretary Jean (Suzy Nakamura), rebel presidential sister Bernadette (Lea DeLaria) sprint ), the stubborn reporter Chris (Lilli Cooper) and Dusty (Julianne Hough), the peppy lover of the piggy Prez.
The genius Dratch is a troublemaker as a nervous, introverted employee who practices power and cannot speak up. Then she accidentally swallows some hallucinogenic pills she thought were Tums and goes berserk. The “SNL” graduate walking through the theater with wide eyes and an inner tube is the best part of the play. Dratch doesn’t have to work for laughs—she gets them by existing.
Just as Dratch is meek, White rocks disheveled and angry. Your ambitious boss works like lightning and thunder – an incredulous look is soon followed by a roaring scream.
Hough goes berserk while sipping alcoholic slushies — and director Susan Stroman has her do some signature dances — while DeLaria is almost a sequel to Big Boo in Orange Is the New Black. At the beginning of the show, she is released from prison wearing a GPS ankle bracelet. She and Nakamura have silly chemistry when their past affair is solved.
Cooper’s journalist is the least busy, which is a shame. Reporters are entertaining weirdos, and there were certainly some cleverer scenarios to throw her into. Why do you think they make so many damn movies about us?
What will appeal to some about Fillinger’s game — but what also holds it back — is that it ramps up to about 11 from the second the lights come on. The best farces, as well as sitcoms, start off with a serene normalcy before things go haywire. How can we perceive this world falling apart and laugh uncontrollably if we never see it put together? The continuous high energy is desensitized by Act 2. The ending, by the way, seems to be trying to channel the revenge antics of “9 to 5” – but it just doesn’t hold up the landing.
However, with only two 45-minute acts, it’s a fun evening. “POTUS” would go down much smoother with one of Dusty’s 80 Proof Slushies.
https://nypost.com/2022/04/27/potus-broadway-review-amped-up-white-house-farce-is-too-wild/ The souped-up White House farce is too wild