Wednesday, December 17, 2014

'All The Way' & 'The Great Society'

I knew both were going to be heavy plays. Suited me fine. Booked tickets to Seattle Repertory Theatre's 'All the Way' and 'The Great Society'. A two-part political and historical play split over two sets of dates, three hours each. In Seattle. I couldn't be happier. Both written by Robert Schenkkan and directed by Bill Rauch(Reviews here, here, here and here.)

Jack Willis plays President Lyndon B. Johnson or LBJ, who completed John F. Kennedy's term in 1963 and became President in 1964. Half the cast has been with this play for years, for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, where the second play 'The Great Society' earlier debuted. The first play 'All the Way' was already shown at the festival in 2012 and in March 2014 on Broadway where Bryan Cranston took the lead role as JBJ. Yes, that Bryan Cranston. The Walter White of you-know-what drama. His win actually stirred my interest in catching the play, although not necessarily with him in it.

'All the Way' explores LBJ taking the presidency in a painful period in American history. 'The Great Society' takes a hard look at the effectiveness of LBJ's presidency. I.e his Great Programs of major spending to address urban poverty, racial rights, education, medical care and transport. Of which all came to betterment decades later under Nixon and Ford. The two-part play is a continuation of gargantuan effort by Seattle Repertory Theatre. Civil rights and liberties, Rev Martin Luther King Jr. (played by Kenajuan Bentley), the establishment of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Vietnam War, etc. I can understand the finesse required to negotiate with Congress, dealing with both Republicans and Democrats, factions pro and anti-War.

Not like I know so much about American history. In fact, I don't know offhand which President is notable for what achievements. Had to do a quick revision of history and LBJ before watching the plays. At least that's a period in history I'm already familiar with. Sharp dialogue, the actors' voices, cadences and dramatic flair, dry humor and excellent balanced acting. Absolutely enjoyable.

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