POTUS at the Geffen Playhouse and upcoming Long Beach Symphony concerts

Who really pulls the strings in the White House? It’s (L-R): Alexandra Billings, Jane Levy, Celeste Den, Deirdre Lovejoy, Shannon Cochran, Lauren Blumenfeld, and Ito Aghayere in POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive (Photo by Justin Bettman)

By Shari Barrett

A derogatory comment, a summit gone awry, and an anal abscess all make for a bad day in the White House during POTUS: Or, Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive. Opening when the President unwittingly spins a PR nightmare into a global crisis, it inevitably falls on the women he relies on most to clean up the mess within the halls of the West Wing. Written by Selina Fillinger, POTUS takes a raucous romp through a riotous and irreverent farce about the man who holds the power vs. the women who get the job done. And what better time to bring this behind-the-scenes political farce to the Geffen Playhouse than during a year which promises tons of political tumult thanks to the upcoming presidential election?

Directed by Jennifer Chambers, the cast features Ito Aghayere as Chris, a recently-divorced and nursing mother who does her best as press secretary while pumping for her hungry twins; Alexandra Billings as pistol-packing First Lady Margaret whose contempt for her womanizing husband knows no bounds; Lauren Blumenfeld as the President’s frazzled secretary Stephanie who may be able to speak five languages but can’t handle the ramifications of swallowing too many Tums; Shannon Cochran as Harriet, a high ranking politico who fancies herself a future vice presidential candidate; Celeste Den as hard-working Jean, the former partner of Bernadette (Deirdre Lovejoy), the President’s sister serving a prison sentence; and Jane Levy as Dusty, the rambunctious pregnant presidential paramour who will do anything, and I do mean anything, to support him staying in office.

Each of these actors do an incredible job portraying each character to the hilt, while always maintaining impeccable comedic timing so important in keeping a farce incredibly funny. Of course, there are the doors… and thanks to the incredibly intricate and movable hallway and bathroom interlocking scenic design by Brett J. Banakis, the set itself becomes an important character in the production as each location changes. Kudos to director Chambers for keeping the action moving along at breakneck speed, often taking the cast antics up and down the aisles as the set morphs. Kudos to stage managers Darlene Miyakawa and Colleen Danaher for their attention to detail in moving the set into place so efficiently.

Playwright Fillinger is to be congratulated for reminding us that “we cannot keep navigating our present crises with the well-worn methods that got us here,” by offering a humorous behind-the-scenes look at the women who, though normally “put in their place” by the man in charge, take up the reins and pull the strings to get what they want by using their feminine wiles and innate intelligence to placate those who would keep them subjugated into supporting roles. These women know their power and are not afraid to use it to their advantage!

Performances take place through February 25 on Wednesday – Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 3 and 8 p.m., Sunday 2 and 7 p.m. at the Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue in Los Angeles 90024. Run time is 1 hour and 40 minutes, including one intermission. Tickets are priced at $39 – $129, available by phone at 310.208.2028 or online at www.geffenplayhouse.org. Please be advised the production contains herbal cigarette smoke and lots of staged action in the aisles. Due to subject matter and profanity, this play is recommended for ages 12+.

Windborne’s Mick Adams will perform the music of the Rolling Stones with the Long Beach Symphony on February 3. (Photo credit: Long Beach Sympathy)

During the month of February, Long Beach Symphony is presenting two concerts guaranteed to appeal to audiences of all ages. First, at the Long Beach Arena on Saturday, February 3, 2024, the music from one of the most influential and enduring rock bands in history, the legendary Rolling Stones, will be performed with a full orchestra. Under the baton of Brett Havens, Windborne’s Mick Adams will bring unparalleled energy and nostalgia to the stage in an unforgettable experience with hits such as “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” “Under My Thumb,” “Sympathy For The Devil,” “Wild Horses,” “Ruby Tuesday,” “Let’s Spend The Night Together,” and of course, the ultimate in “Satisfaction” and more. 

For an enhanced concert experience, audiences are encouraged to bring their picnic baskets, libations, and dancing shoes! Catering services can also be reserved ahead of the concert (on the website) for those preferring a more formal dining experience. The concert begins at 8pm, with doors opening at 6:30pm for picnics in stadium seating or tables on the Arena floor. Tickets start at $30 or fans can purchase a 3-concert subscription for $124 that includes subscriber perks such as ticket exchanges and dining discounts. Tickets and subscriptions are available at LongBeachSymphony.org or by calling 562-436-3203, ext. 1. More info at https://longbeachsymphony.org/music-of-rolling-stones/

On Saturday, February 17, under the direction of Maestro Eckart Preu, Long Beach Symphony will present a night of emotional warmth and vibrant colors, including “Pictures at an Exhibition.” (Photo credit: Long Beach Symphony)

Opening with Concert Overture No. 2 by Florence Price, the first African American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer, the piece contains a set of three spirituals that demonstrate the influence of ragtime, spirituals, and folk dance in American music.

The evening’s celebration of classical music and artistic inspiration continues with Dvořák’s Cello Concerto, featuring Long Beach Symphony’s principal cellist Cécilia Tsan. The piece is beloved both for the deeply felt emotion it evokes and the solo artist’s performance mastery it spotlights.

Long Beach Symphony rounds out the evening with what promises to be a mesmerizing performance of Modest Mussorgsky’s timeless masterpiece, “Pictures at an Exhibition.” This orchestral suite, originally composed in 1874, has become a staple of the classical repertoire and continues to captivate audiences with its vivid musical depictions of visual art. The original imagery will be projected on screen to enhance the audience’s listening experience.

Audiences can enjoy a relaxed, fun, yet elegant evening along the dancing fountains, fire pits and bar on the Plaza, and a 7 p.m. pre-concert talk that will give further context into the evening, with the ability to “Sip & Enjoy” in the concert hall. This multi-sensory event will take place on Saturday, February 17 at 8pm at the Long Beach Terrace Theater (300 E. Ocean Blvd.). Doors open at 6:30 p.m. for Plaza socialization and 7 p.m. pre-concert talk. For more information, visit LongBeachSymphony.org. Concert tickets start at $32 at https://aabn.short.gy/ejAzqi or by calling (562) 436-3203, ext. 1.