What's it about?
First Daughter Suite is a play that offers a look at the struggles of the women behind former U.S. Presidents during their darkest hour in their time of presidency.
What'd I experience?
The Public Theater is my favorite theatre in New York City. The way the theaters are set up in the building is amazing to me. I walked into the Anspacher Theatre, the audience is elevated surrounding the stage in a U-like formation. The musicians were also elevated behind a black curtain, behind the stage. Onstage there was a glass floor covering with wave-like imagery that made it seem like the actors were going to step into water.
The first family the show starts with is the Nixons. So, the 37th president of the United States, Richard Nixon and his daughters and wife. It is Tricia Nixon’s wedding and everything is going wrong according to her. The biggest problem is the absence of her father at the moment which is making her freak out even more. I’m sitting there thinking... who cares if it rains or not you’re getting married in the freakin’ White House, why doesn’t she just fix something up to put over the whole ceremony like a tent and call it a day. You’re getting married; most of your days are going to be under a dark cloud anyway. And that’s my view on marriage ok back to this. Lmaoo ;)
I like to call that scene what Tricia and her sister referenced it as “The Crappy Wedding Day.” Tricia and Julie’s bickering as sisters was quite entertaining. I could feel their connection through their comedic/witty disagreements. Pat Nixon, their mother, was smoking and drinking a lot to ease the stress. Not only was her daughter’s wedding day turning into a nightmare but her husband was in the middle of managing how to handle the Watergate Scandal (illegal activity supported by Richard Nixon’s administration at the time). Throughout the scene Pat is accompanied by the image of her (deceased) mother-in-law. I didn’t figure it out until the end of the scene when I noticed that the daughters weren’t acknowledging her at all. Then I was like “ohhhhhhhhhhhhh she’s dead. Ok.” I kinda thought that Pat’s mother-in-law was also her conscience in disguise. She was very blunt and judgmental, calling Pat’s daughters weak and spoiled.
The next scene took place on a boat in the dream of the daughter of the 39th President of the United States, Jimmy Carter. <<<<<I can’t even believe that I just wrote that. On the boat was Pres. Carter’s daughter and wife along with the daughter and wife of Gerald Ford, the 38th president of the United States and the man Carter defeated to become president. Tension was HIGH in that boat. Amy Carter looked up to Susan Ford as a role model. This scene was a reminder that sometimes it’s best to not meet your role models because they could end up being a huge disappointment. Susan ended up killing her own mother, Amy Carter’s mother, and was planning on killing Amy Carter. All because she was having a hard time going from living in the White House to regular life. At the end of the scene, everyone came back to life and it was cool because they were in a dream.
After intermission, the audience is introduced to Patty and Nancy Reagan. This relationship was the most twisted and agonizing relationships I have ever witnessed unfold before my eyes. After not talking to each other for six months Patty and Nancy are reunited. Here I saw the negative effect that the lies and controversy that comes with Presidency had on Patty, as a daughter of a controversial President. Patty’s soul is tainted. She has been through hell in Washington. Her mind has been beaten, battered, and bruised being around the dark secrets that lie behind the success of her country. Nancy is scarred as well. She appears almost emotionless and numb. Patty gave Nancy the most brutal and gut wrenching verbal assault I have ever witnessed. Whenever Patty decided to hit Nancy with an insult to get her angry a giant drum was hit after every line. The emotional transitions in this were incredible. Just when you think Nancy has submitted and Patty has caved - BOOM! Patty is right back at it. She was about to lose her mind until Nancy drugged her with something to keep her in a coma for three days. I loved this scene. It had both acting and singing. Both ladies are psychotic which is beautiful in a way.
The ending summed everything up for me. All that changed was the furniture and the lighting but my imagination automatically allowed my eyes to see a foggy lake house and a porch where Barbra Bush was sitting speaking with her deceased daughter, on the day of her death. The play made Mrs. Bush seem like the back bone to the Bush administrations (Sr. and son). Laura Bush, George Bush’s wife, came out to see if Barbra Bush was ok. Laura took a lot of crap thrown at her by the public and by the Bush family but Barbra mentions that Laura is very tolerant and resilient. The life lessons that were recited throughout this scene had me shed a tear. Sayings like “We love what we fear” and “If you let go you will feel a pleasant ease.” Barbra had to let go of her daughter’s death. Laura was telling her that the mourning was over and that is was time to let go, not to forget her but to let her rest in peace. At this point in my life, I am in place where it is hard to let go and I feel restricted to follow a path that I am not so passionate about afraid that I will fail miserably. I shed that tear because I can’t let go myself and to watch someone else do it was incredible to me.