Review: POTUS at Stage West must be seen!



Or Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
by Selina Fillinger
Directed by Kara- Lynn Vaeni
Produced by Stage West

Reviewed by Jenny Wood

Stage West’s production of POTUS: Or Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive a play that needs to be seen. 

When I first read the script, I thought, “This is amazing, I can’t wait to see this!”... which, I quickly learned, was the opposite reaction of almost everyone I know. Even in the program note, Executive Producer Dana Schultes writes, “When I first read POTUS… I said to my producing partner, Garret Storms, ‘I don’t know man, the language alone… it’s all I can see on the page!” Other reactions I’d heard from people who read the script include:

“It’s so graphic!”

“Too much cursing, too much sexual innuendo.”

“They all seem so shrill.”

“But the drugs… and the guns? Really?”

Schultes goes on to say, “I took a moment, reframed my reading approach… and quickly realized that I had only been reacting to the words, not the story”.

The story is both completely bananas and totally, 100% relatable. 

The show opens with the President’s Chief of Staff, Harriet (Dana Schultes), and Communications's Director, Jean (Vanessa DeSilvo) discussing how to manage the morning’s crisis – the President has just made a Very Unfortunate Remark on camera.

That Very Unfortunate Remark is PG compared to the rest of the day’s events - we soon meet the remaining five of the President’s Women: First Lady Margaret (vickie washington), Oval Office secretary Stephanie (Kristin McCollum), journalist Chris (Octavia Y. Thomas), the President’s sister Bernadette (Laurel L. Collins), and young, blonde Dusty (Olivia Cinquepalmi).

From the first few lines of the curtain speech through the final black out, the production is pitch perfect. This is in part due to each performer fully committing to the bits, but would not be possible without clean and clear direction from Kara-Lynn Vaeni. Where some productions have been criticized as sloppy, Vaeni has masterfully choreographed the ebb and flow of chaos.

Each actor shines individually and within the ensemble. Schultes, the gravitational center, keeps everyone on task with a tone reminiscent of Kate McKinnon's best deadpans. DeSilvo’s ability to speak certain lines, in her soothing Public Relations voice, without breaking or seemingly breathing, left me in awe.  Cinquepalmi and McCollum have a spectacular number near the end. washington brings exactly the kind of energy you would expect from a First Lady wearing those shoes with that suit. I very much appreciate the lightness and humor Collins gave to a character that could’ve been slimy and unappealing. Thomas’ pushy journalist is somehow both calculating and delightfully warm. 

The action is supported by strong technical elements… spinning sets, blue tongues, and so so many post-its. My loudest laugh of the show came when I noticed someone leaking, so kudos to whoever figured out how to make that happen.

There is a themed drink available for purchase at the lobby bar - a bright blue cocktail called “The Blushie.” I suggest having it preshow, because if you spit or spill from laughing it will stain. And you will spit or spill from laughing, trust. 

This show is wild. All of the best parts of Veep, West Wing, and a Kesha Concert.  Is it NSFW? Yes, absolutely. Did I invite some coworkers to go back on Friday for the Post-Show? Also yes. 

POTUS has been extended through March 30, for tickets and info. 



Audience Rating: R - “Totally NSFW! Contains strong, graphic language directly related to the plot.  Recommended for ages 17+”

Run Time: 1 hours 45 minutes, including a 15 minute intermission. 

Accessible Seating: Available 

Hearing Devices: Available

Sensory Friendly Performance: Not Available

Production Sound Level: Appropriate.

Noises or Visuals to Prepare For: None of Note