A Brief History of Presidents

44 Plays for 44 Presidents

through Oct. 29, Cleveland Public Theatre, 6415 Detroit Ave., 216-631-2727, cptonline.org

How does it feel for a woman to be president of the United States? According to Tanera Hutz, it feels amazing. "I'm a history buff and being able to perform as president is very empowering."

Even though there may be an actual female occupying the Oval Office in a couple months, there are seven women here in Cleveland who are trying their hand at the highest office in the land this week, as 44 Plays for 44 Presidents continues at Cleveland Public Theatre through Oct. 29.

This play, created by the renowned Chicago theater group the New-Futurists, cruises through the entire presidential history of this country, from the original George W. (Washington, that is) through Barack Obama. It's a daunting task for Hutz and the other six women who will portray all the characters. And since the running time of the show indicates that the average time spent on each president will be about three minutes, this will be a necessarily cursory review of those gentlemen.

"Empowering" is also a word that comes to Molly Andrews-Hinders' mind, who is another performer in the show. "What struck me in the show is how many programs FDR began during the New Deal, programs that are still powerfully affecting people's lives today."

Written by a clutch of five Neo-Futurists and co-directed by Dan Kilbane and Caitlin Lewins, 44 Plays intends to be a non-stop volley of songs, factoids, dancing and wisecracks. In short, it will be a much more reserved and dignified experience than the current presidential campaign, which has slid into the muck of Donald Trump's despicable carnal excesses.

Of course, this play at CPT isn't exactly be a sober seminar on American government since there are plenty of absurdities to reveal and POTUSes to tweak. (Chester A. Arthur, we're looking at you.) There is also a mix of tragedy in the show, as monumental moments such as slavery and war take their moments in the spotlight.

Carrie Williams, a performer who plays George W. Bush among many others, says, "Any one of these guys could have a whole play written about them, and it's kind of sad that their contributions are reduced to a couple minutes each." Other performers include Chennelle Bryant-Harris, Melissa Therese Crum, Sally Groth and Colleen McCaughey.

By moving chronologically through all the presidents, one gets a sense for the sweep of history and how our country has arrived where it is in 2016

And if we can laugh along the way, so much the better!

About The Author

Christine Howey

Christine Howey has been reviewing theater since 1997, first at Cleveland Free Times and then for other publications including City Pages in Minneapolis, MN and The Plain Dealer. Her blog, Rave and Pan, also features her play reviews. Christine is a former stage actor and director, primarily at Dobama Theatre...
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