Honestly, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about first daughters, but evidently composer Michael John LaChiusa does. Although it might help to know the something about the presidencies of Nixon, Ford, Reagan and the Bushes, it’s not necessary to enjoy this play (which is four small plays rolled into one). None of the “vignettes” really have anything to do with the other but all four are loosely bound together by touching upon moments in history.
In the silly and zany first half we meet Bridezilla, aka Trisha Nixon, with mom Pat and sister Julie, as Trisha prepares for her wedding. Flash forward and Amy Carter lets us enter her nightmare where she and mom Rosalynn, along with a drunk and dancing Betty Ford and daughter Susan, are on the presidential yacht sailing to Iran to rescue the hostages. The second act changes tone and becomes more somber and reflective. Nancy Reagan attempts to reconcile with daughter Patti after Patti publishes her novel about a family uncannily similar to their own. Laura Bush tries to get her mother-in-law Barbara to campaign for George W., but Barbara is commemorating her daughter’s death 50 years ago and can’t be bothered to help her “mediocre son”. I can just imagine what Mr.LaChiusa might say about Chelsea Clinton or the Obama girls…. Yet it is the mothers’ characters with whom Mr. LaChiusa seems to have more of an affinity.
I loved the first half and was laughing out loud – during intermission I texted my partner in crime that the show was hilarious. Unfortunately I felt the second half fell flat and I especially didn’t care for the lack of continuity and tone. Overall, the cast was great and did their best to try to bring life and wit to Mr. LaChiusa’s silliness, but this is one you can skip. LAR
The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street
Discounted tickets: available for members
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes, one intermission
Runs thru: November 15, 2015