With presidential politics revving up, maybe it’s appropriate that I saw two political plays today. Both offer a reminder of the personal cost of political leadership.
“King Charles III,” a Brit transplant to Broadway, speculates on the role of the monarchy in democratic Britain and what would happen if that crafted balance were demolished. Despite the cloying references to Shakespeare including the iambic pentameter verse, the surprises along the. way elevate this play almost to the level it shamelessly imitates.
Two characters attempt fresh approaches to living with, and opting out of, traditional leadership roles, both rebelling in the name of decency and common sense. That is until the forces for sameness squash the forces for change. That tension, I will admit, created a Shakespearean calculus.
Too bad for the abrupt ending that needed audience plants to signal. Otherwise, the audience clearly would have waited for more. Instead we were left with an unsatisfied craving. Or at least I was. The rest of the audience gave the typical standing O. Stunned, I wanted to rebel!
The inability to rebel is at the heart of “First Daughter Suite” at the Public Theatre-that hot launching pad of new musicals (most recently “Hamilton”). Whereas Kate (Prince William’s wife) protests being ‘plastic’ and does something about it, American women in the White House have had less choice.
Somehow Chelsea Clinton escaped the roast/opera. Music mostly discordant and lyrics often laugh-out-loud funny, the political and life traps of being a woman in the White House from Pat Nixon to the Bush generations are the fodder.
Who can forget the competition between Julie and Tricia Nixon and Tricia’s White House wedding on a rainy day? Poor Pat.
Amy Carter, who was tormented during the Carter years by the media, gets her own dream fantasy. The dream is complete with a hilarious, diva-dancing Betty Ford, the too-sweet Rosalynn who assures her that boring, normal life is okay, and spiky Susan Ford who contends that first-daughter Amy will never be normal. Like Prince Harry in “King Charles III,” maybe Burger King is the answer.
Maybe Chelsea was spared because of Hilary. Maybe because the Clinton’s protected her from the media. Maybe because she’s come into her own.
Or maybe there’s a different path now for women in the White House…