Farce requires a form of rotation in which a carefully rehearsed ensemble must combine physical comedy, hilarious verbal swordplay, and exaggerated but believable characters at a pace that falls just short of chaos.
Director Paula Plum and her SpeakEasy Stage troupe for “POTUS, or behind every big idiot are seven women who try to keep him alive“, pull off this breathtaking feat and make it look easy. Certainly, they have a terrific script from playwright Selina Fillinger and a situation that hits way too close to home, even though all the action takes place in a high-pressure world .of the White House.
Fillinger opens the comedy with an expletive that immediately makes us sit up, even gasp. But that’s just the beginning. As Harriet, the president’s chief of staff (Lisa Yuen, in a carefully calibrated performance), and Jean, his press secretary (a terribly hurt Laura Latreille) try to strategize how to deal with the fallout from the latest gaffe of the president, who is threatening nuclear disarmament. His expletive described his wife, the incredibly accomplished Margaret (Crystin Gilmore), who was told she needed to appear more “earthy,” hence the appearance of Fangs under her power suit. Harriet and Jean enlist the help of Stephanie, the president’s high-skill, low-self-esteem secretary (Marianna Basham in an inspired performance – keep an eye out for those well-placed post-it notes).
As this inner circle attempts to tell an “acceptable” story, they are interrupted by the arrival of reporter Chris (Catia, who manages to wear double breast pumps even as she does her best to get her scoop) ; the president’s current girlfriend, Dusty (Monique Ward Lonergan, doing hilarious and athletic lap dance moves without knees); and the president’s sister, Bernadette (a deliciously brassy Johanna Carlisle-Zepeda), a convicted drug mule, waiting for her brother to sign his pardon.
Each new arrival adds to the chaos, and as if that wasn’t enough, Stephanie, worried about being replaced, bursts several of Bernadette’s Tums, which, of course, are not Tums. When Jean confiscates Chris’s phone to prevent him from revealing the plan to iron out the president’s insult, a frustrated Chris drops a bust of feminist Alice Paul, which hits the invisible president in the head as he opens the door to enter. bedroom. The second act encompasses the antics of these presidential enablers as they manage this crisis, keeping the chaos at bay as the situation spirals out of control.
Although the intermission appears to serve only as an opportunity to give the actors a chance to catch their breath, and Act II begins only 30 seconds after the end of Act I, the pace and tenor changes – almost like a change in tone. Plum guides his ensemble to dig a little deeper into their characters as they consider what could happen if they stepped into the spotlight and stopped covering for the incompetent guy who is responsible in name only.
Plum expertly balances the abundant talents of its ensemble of actors, with Fillinger’s script providing individual performers the opportunity to showcase their talents without taking away from the overall effect. Fillinger’s ear for inflated political rhetoric: “That’s his wheelhouse.” A room full of men, talking about guns and war, not a woman in sight” – and the harsh realities of working mothers – “These guys can tweet you, text you, drink a Red Bull and work three days in a row. » – comes rapid-fire, but never gets lost. Plum also has help from fight choreographer and intimacy coordinator Angie Jepson, who transforms slapstick into ballet moves and keeps the action moving and the actors safe, even when punching, slapping , cell phones and post-its are flying.
Jenna McFarland Lord’s spare desk is punctuated with the seal of the President of the United States in the center of the floor, but instead of the bald eagle as the national symbol, this one is dominated by a panicking turkey. At the back of the stage are a series of awkwardly angled doors that look like they were lifted from the set of “Pee Wee’s Playhouse,” although they are painted in muted tones, all the better for Karen Perlow’s lighting. bring out when necessary. Congratulations to the artists who manage to turn, adjust and push these doors (with the help of the stage crew), without slowing down the pace of the action one iota.
The crack that appears in these women’s commitment to their work offers a subversive glimmer of hope to so many women who coddle and cajole men when perhaps they should just let things fall where they may. Fillinger says the situation could apply to Clinton (remember him?), Trump, but honestly, many situations where women do the work while the man in charge gets the glory. (Not that I know. I’m just responding on behalf of a friend). It’s a tribute to Fillinger, Plum, and this cast that we can laugh so hard along the way.
” from the company SpeakEasy StagePOTUS, or behind every big idiot are seven women who try to keep him alive” continues on the Roberts Stage at Calderwood Pavilion until October 15.