First Lady (1935)

By Katharine Dayton and George S. Kaufman

The Plot:

Set among the elegant townhouses of Georgetown, this political comedy focuses on the intrigues that go on among the elite "power" hostesses of Washington DC and their ambitions. A feud has existed for years between the manipulative Irene Hibbard and her rival, Lucy Chase Wayne, one of the capital's most elegant and quick-witted hostesses and wife of a Cabinet official. When both women try to put forward the men in their lives as a possible presidential candidate, the feud becomes all-out war. Irene wants to back a handsome bachelor Senator (and divorce her husband after the election), while Lucy hopes to become First Lady by supporting her own husband; complicated negotiations and false rumors erupt into an all-out scandal that consumes the social life of Washington and changes the fate of the nation.

About the Play:

For this play, Kaufman entered into his first and only collaboration with Katharine Dayton, a Washington columnist. Ever since the early teens, when Kaufman served as a reporter in Washington, the nation's political shenanigans had always fascinated him. This drawing-room comedy tinged with political satire was a decent-sized hit when it opened, and was subsequently filmed with Kay Francis as the clever Lucy Chase Wayne. Time has proven that "behind closed doors" intrigues of Washington are more pertinent than ever, and this play—which provides two fantastic roles for leading character actresses—is worth a revival.

Stage history:

First Lady opened November 26, 1935 at the Music Box Theatre and ran 246 performances. It was filmed by Warner Bros in 1937. Aside from a 1996 revival at the Yale Repertory Theatre, it has not had a recent first-class production.

Production details:

14 men, 11 women (doubling possible); 2 interiors
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Strip Box:

An elegant political comedy of manners—more topical now than ever.