Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review Roundup: POTUS: OR, BEHIND EVERY GREAT DUMBASS ARE SEVEN WOMEN TRYING TO KEEP HIM ALIVE

Potus is running on Broadway at the Shubert Theatre.

POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive

Selina Fillinger's new Broadway comedy POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive, directed by five-time Tony Award winner Susan Stroman, officially opens today at the Shubert Theatre (225 West 44th Street).

POTUS features an all-star cast of women, including Tony Award nominee Lilli Cooper (Tootsie, "The Good Fight") as Chris; Screen Actors Guild Award winner Lea DeLaria ("Orange is the New Black," The Rocky Horror Show) as Bernadette; "SNL" comedy legend Rachel Dratch ("Saturday Night Live," Wine Country) in her Broadway debut as Stephanie; Emmy Award winner Julianne Hough (Footloose, Safe Haven, "Dancing with the Stars") in her Broadway debut as Dusty; actress and comedian Suzy Nakamura ("Dr. Ken", Horrible Bosses 2, "Avenue 5") in her Broadway debut as Jean, Tony Award winner Julie White (The Little Dog Laughed, "Nurse Jackie," Transformers) as Harriet; and Grammy, Emmy & Tony Award nominee Vanessa Williams (Into the Woods, "Ugly Betty", "Desperate Housewives") as Margaret. The cast also includes Anita Abdinezhad (Persian Pod), Gisela Chípe ("Manifest"), Jennifer Fouché (Chicken & Biscuits), and Lisa Helmi Johanson (Avenue Q) as standbys.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Jesse Green, The New York Times: That physical humor is not always expertly rendered. (Dratch does it wonderfully, but the fight choreography is unconvincing.) And the turntable set (by Beowulf Boritt) that efficiently rotates the early action from room to room, like a White House Lazy Susan, seems by the second act to be spinning of its own accord, signifying hysteria but not giving us much chance to absorb it. (The sitcom bright lighting is by Sonoyo Nishikawa.) As the women move from cleaning up men's messes to making messes of their own, you may feel some of the air, or perhaps the milk, leaking out of the comedy.

Adam Feldman, Time Out New York: Mostly, the jokes in POTUS are less pointed. The White House setting is an excuse for a broad, zany, old-school comedy, which is a rarity on Broadway nowadays-especially in the form of a world premiere by a twentysomething woman. You can feel how hungry the spectators are to laugh together, and they get to do it often in this silly, fast-paced lark. It helps enormously that the production, directed by Susan Stroman (The Producers), is so well-cast. This ensemble makes an implicit argument of its own for female accomplishment: Even when their characters are floundering hopelessly, these ladies are pros.

Robert Hofler, The Wrap: Beowulf Boritt's massive West Wing set goes round and round, featuring everything from the chief of staff's office to the ladies' loo, but its ultimate effect is to scatter the comedy all over the place. Williams has the least to do and doesn't look happy doing it. White tries especially hard, screaming to the point that she gives a pretty good vocal imitation of Harvey Fierstein. And Cooper may be the first actor to use breast pumps on a Broadway stage.

Greg Evans, Deadline: If POTUS, directed by Susan Stroman and opening today at Broadway's Shubert Theatre, never quite rises to the level of those three influences - not as darkly clever as VEEP, as lightning quick as Noises Off nor as go-for-deliriously-broke as Ludlam - POTUS barrels through its weaker stretches on the contagious enthusiasm and in-it-together vivacity of a crowd-pleasing cast.

Tim Teeman, The Daily Beast: Selina Fillinger's POTUS, (Shubert Theatre, to Aug. 14) about seven women in the backrooms of the White House trying to save the unseen male president from himself, has extremely funny, sustained moments of pan-meets-frothing-boil and then moments when the dials are turned down, and proceedings lightly simmer. These quieter stretches are not fatal-you just want the comedy to return to its delicious nuttiness; as its subtitle has it: "Or, behind every great dumbass are seven women trying to keep him alive."

Diep Tran, New York Theatre Guide: The jokes are sometimes funny, mostly vulgar, with an overreliance on sex jokes and gross-out humor (the same puke gag is used not once or twice, but three times). The cast have genuine comic chemistry with each other, and the audience around me guffawed in particular at Dratch's antics. Thanks to Linda Cho's costumes, I heard the loudest audience laugh this season over a piece of clothing: the high-heeled Crocs worn by Williams, who should be nominated for a Tony Award for how well she pulls them off.

Amanda Marie Miller, Theatrely: If you want to hear someone say "cunt" onstage in this Broadway season, may I recommend POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive? The new comedy, now playing at the Shubert, says a variety of choice words in its two hours of dialogue, but manages to keep audience members laughing for the entirety. There's fighting, press briefings, and even a bit of ass play. How can we find more plays that showcase this level of spontaneity and vivacity? Now that's the eternal question.

Elysa Gardner, The New York Sun: The idea that at least a few of these fictional women could do a better job leading a country than the title character comes up repeatedly in "POTUS," and Ms. Fillinger makes a case for this while also making us shudder at the thought. Ms. Stroman, meanwhile, proves once again that her own leadership abilities should be held in no doubt.

Merryn Johns, Queerty: You can feel Fillinger's disgust at this country's gender inequity in the endless quantities of vomit, blood, and breast milk that soak this play. You might think you're arriving for sharp feminist political commentary. You're really coming for an episode of Veep put through a Saturday Night Live blender and turned into a blue slushy. It might make you happy and feel good. It might make you sick. Either way, it's a purge.

David Finkle, New York Stage Review: What has indisputably been established throughout both acts is that the seven cast members are each worth whatever salary they're getting and more. Each, as cleverly dressed by Linda Cho, deserves a separate order-of-appearance rave: White for her unmitigated fury, Nakamura for her dignified uppityness, Dratch for her vague otherworldliness (especially when calling attention to her covered nipples), Williams for her dignified but no-nonsense great lady, Cooper for her sneakiness, Hough for her unabashed cheer, DeLaria for her never-abating brazenness. Susan Stroman, apparently on leave from musicals, directs. She's so creative at this song-and-dance-less assignment that the leave is likely to be extended. She never falters at keeping the stage lively. That goes for the stretches where the Fillinger script stalls. Yes, Stroman lovers, she does slip in a brief dance routine or two.

Johnny Oleksinski, The New York Post: At first the romp is engaging, lifted by a truly brilliant cast of comedic actors who embrace and explode the qualities that made them famous. Then, in Act 2, the set-ups become so unwieldy and ludicrous that it turns into an episode of "Hoarders: Broadway Edition." Somebody needed to come in with gloves and a garbage bag and do some major decluttering.

Jonathan Mandell, New York Theater: If there is a stand-out among these stand-outs, it is probably Julianne Hough as Dusty, whom we first see vomiting blue slushies in the White House bathroom, because she's pregnant...with the president's baby. If Dusty appears to be a stereotypical bimbo, no more capable of having a coherent thought than the flax she grows on a farm in Iowa, little by little we learn that she's extraordinary in a whole host of ways, some of which (but far from all of which) are X-rated. (She's where the ass play comes into play, and that's all I'll say.) Hough, who among her other accomplishments was a two-time champion of "Dancing with the Stars," does triple duty in "POTUS" - at one point, rapping while she plays her body like a drum; at another, leading the rest of the ladies in two different song and dance numbers, which are in the play because....well, why not. Besides, Susan Stroman, four-time Tony winner for choreography (and once for direction), is the director, so why not give her something to do besides stage these characters standing around spouting vulgarities in the different elegant rooms of the White House that spin around on designer Beowulf Boritt's turntable set.

To read more reviews, click here!
Related Articles


From This Author - Review Roundups