All the Way, LBJ!

Another review from Karen, this one on Robert Schenkkan’s play “All the Way.”

Robert Schenkkan’s play about Lyndon Baines Johnson takes place during the first year of his Presidency, immediately after the assassination of Jack Kennedy in 1963.  The production went into rehearsal at the same time as the release of Robert Caro’s fourth volume of his LBJ biography, covering about the same time period.  The play focuses less on the events of that year, and much more on the interactions between the President and the major players in those events: Martin Luther King, J. Edgar Hoover, Governor George Wallace, and Senators Dick Russell, Everett Dirksen, and Hubert Humphrey.Much of the script is based on their actual recordings and writings.  It is a three-dimensional character study of LBJ with a wealth of quotable quotes.  “Politics is war by other means.  Mostly politics is war, period.  It’s a knife fight in a dark room with a slippery floor.”  Or his warning to his long-time mentor and friend, Dick Russell, “I love you more than my own Daddy but, if you get in my way, I’ll crush you.” LBJ’s philosophy, as well as his personality, is on display here.  “Nuthin’ is free.  Nuthin’.  Not even goodness.  Nuthin’.”

Directed by Bill Rauch, OSF Artistic Director since 2008, the cast includes some of the strongest members of the acting company, who often play multiple parts. The excellent set enables the scenes to flow without pause or interruption, aided by the judicious use of projections to set the time, place and speakers.  There is a balletic, seamless movement to the staging of individual scenes and the continuous action allows a lot of information and meaning to be conveyed in a relatively short, tightly-packed manner.

In real estate desirability is based on location, location, location.  In theatre it’s all about the script.  And, when you have a script as well-written as this one, it must have been truly a pleasure for Rauch to direct.  It is a taut, tight production, keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.  The theatre was alive with anticipation, a far different energy than the previous evening’s wary lack of enthusiasm.  The experience made me want to read and see every play Mr. Schenkkan has written and to hope OSF will produce the second one he is writing about LBJ as soon as it is complete.

Comments (1)

  1. Ellen -
    September 7, 2012

    I too loved everything about this play.


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