A Very Broad Comedy: A Trippy Girls Trip Meets West Wing Zingers

L-R: Deirdre Lovejoy and Lauren Blumenfeld in POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Her Alive at Geffen Playhouse. Directed by Jennifer Chambers. Photo by Jeff Lorch.

A not-so-funny thing happened on the way to the Forum – I mean Geffen Playhouse: A motorcade of truly presidential proportions waylaid traffic, with siren-blaring, orders-giving motorcycle cops squealing via loudspeakers and SUV-type vehicles tying up traffic, so some self-important high-muck-a-muck could impose a mini-police state over Westwood in order to reach some destination. The thought crossed my mind: Either Trump has launched his pig putsch or is Kamala going to watch POTUS on the boards? Through some deft maneuvering I managed to make my way through the pig-created traffic jam (your tax dollars at work!) and reach the Geffen in time for the curtain, with, thankfully, no White House pompous bigwig in sight. (Ironically, a POTUS press release I received had this in the subject line: “POTUS is Now in L.A. (Without the traffic.)” Can I sue for false advertising?)

POTUS, Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying To Keep Him Alive is the latest evolution of a screen trend that has emerged in recent years featuring “Girls Behaving Badly,” wherein female characters indulge in the same raunchy, outrageous antics, obscenity-spewing and envelope-pushing that the guys act out in outré movies such as The Hangover. Examples of this rules-breaking, supposedly “feminist” film vogue include Bridesmaids and Girls Trip. Now Selina Fillinger, one of the youngest women playwrights to ever have a play produced on Broadway (along with Lorraine Hansberry), has taken this formula to the stage and all the way to the Oval Office with POTUS (aka “President of the United States” for those of you who don’t understand the inside baseball “CNN-Speak” of the chattering class). It’s West Wing meets Joy Ride! 

This two-act comedy’s premise is that an outlandish POTUS is propped up by and must contend with a coterie of high-powered gals. They include the outspoken FLOTUS, or the First Lady Margaret, who in a bit of clever, canny casting is portrayed by trans thesp Alexandra Billings, of ABC’s The Conners sitcom, Broadway’s Wicked and Amazon’s Transparent. Shannon Cochran plays the frazzled, long-suffering chief of staff, the proverbial “adult in the room,” who tries to maintain a shred of order in a chaotic Executive Mansion, even as she’s beset by hot flashes while grappling with menopause. The lesbian Jean (Celeste Den) is the much-put-upon press secretary who likewise tries to keep a lid on things in a White House (where all of POTUS’ action takes place) spinning out of control. The scoop-scheming correspondent Chris (Ito Aghayere of Star Trek: Picard, Broadway and Off-Broadway) – a divorcing mother of two who is breast-feeding – helps the spin cycle skip merrily along, as she seeks an exclusive for breaking news.

Throw into this combustible mix the White House aide or intern Stephanie (Lauren Blumenfeld), who ingests some mind-blowing substances and raises the zaniness up many notches. Deirdre Lovejoy is the president’s pardon-seeking, monitor-wearing sister Bernadette – Jean’s former lover and who Stephanie probably scored her drugs from – adding to the merry mayhem. And the final blow (pun intended) is provided by Dusty (Jane Levy), POTUS’ pregnant, promiscuous, free-spirited, anything-goes mistress.

To (over-the-) top it all, there is even a plot point where it appears as if the president has been assassinated. Quick, get me Jim Garrison and Oliver Stone!

Notice that no male is in the multi-culti cast per se of POTUS, wherein instead of sidelined Republican or Democratic Party talking points, gender politics are served up galore in Fillinger’s farce that’s reminiscent of HBO’s much funnier Veep series. Set and video designer Brett J. Banakis has decorated the Geffen’s stage with portraits of presidents and décor meant to suggest the White House (although the exact Oval Office replica in pollster/upholsterer extraordinaire Frank Luntz’s mansion is mo’ bettah), plus provided some cable newsy-type projections. Costume designer Samantha C. Jones’ displays an appropriately goofy sartorial satirical touch, from Margaret’s footwear to Stephanie’s hallucinogenic outfit. Veteran theater director Jennifer Chambers helms the high jinks of her careening cast with aplomb, as her cast zooms up and down the Geffen’s aisles (long-legged theatergoers ensconced in aisle seats beware).

POTUS has more sexual politics than a Kate Millett feminist tome, and enough vulgarity to make Lenny Bruce blush (shrinking violets beware – you’ve been warned). On opening night many in the audience laughed loudly and often and occasionally broke out in applause throughout the rowdy, raucous, raunchy romp. And this foul-mouthed, physical comedy did receivee three Tony nominations. However, others may find POTUS to be a broad comedy, an over-the-top, tiresome, strained stab at comedy. Is the “Girls Behaving Badly” formula, wherein the gals “equally” indulge in the same lewd, risky, convention-shattering, deranged misconduct as the guys, a la the truly unfunny Joy Ride, really “feminist”? 

Is this what “inclusiveness” means? For example, what’s “liberating” about having female, gay, trans (paging Chelsea Manning!), immigrant and minority individuals (usually, by the way, desperate for jobs and education) join the bullying, interventionist mercenary military and become war criminals who endlessly occupy, bomb and invade Third World countries willy-nilly in order to make the world “safe” for U.S. imperialism? Or is genuine “equality” where nobody behaves badly? Now, that’s the satire I’d like to see, but likely never shall. O Aristophanes, wherefore art thou?

(BTW, I subsequently unsuccessfully searched online then phoned an LAPD pigsty to try and find out what/who caused Jan. 26’s traffic jam-causing motorcade in Westwood, but instead of getting a human, I just kept getting automated voice responses – if it was a genuine emergency, I would have been dead by now. Or, if someone with a real crisis somehow managed to get through to an actual person, there would be no officer available – they’d probably be dispatched to another motorcade, tying up traffic somewhere so some ruling class maharajah could dine out where he/she preferred, drivers be damned. Now there’s the premise of a satire for you…)

POTUS, Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying To Keep Him Alive is being performed at 8:00 p.m. Tuesdays - Saturdays, and on Saturdays at 3:00 p.m., plus Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. and has been extended beyond “Presidents Day” to Feb. 25, 2024 (at 2:00 p.m. only), at the Gil Cates Theater, The Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90024. Tickets and info:;  (310) 208-2028. Check traffic reports first.


The Geffen Playhouse 2023/2024 Season production of POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive. Photo by Justin Bettman; L-R: Ito Aghayere and Alexandra Billings in POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Her Alive at Geffen Playhouse. Directed by Jennifer Chambers. Photo by Jeff Lorch.