BWW Interview: ALL THE WAY'S Brandon J. Dirden Takes MLK the Distance
"When Hoover has been taping King, because of the NSA scandals, audience members could absolutely draw parallels," he said. "LBJ's aggression in Vietnam parallels Bush going into Iraq. I think it's scary. I talk to young people after the show and we talk about taking social responsibility and the importance of actively participating in local elections.
"The American promise means having a political voice, and it was so crucial to fight for the civil rights legislation," Dirden said. "People got dressed up to vote because it was an honor and a ritual. I see people at the stage door brimming with hope, and when I engage in conversation they want to talk about their personal connection to civil rights."
Though the texture of the drama is mostly somber, there is ample humor, thanks mostly to LBJ's much-documented course ways. "Humor is such a vital part of the play," Dirden said. "The entire historical period is celebrated by the writer," Robert Schenkkan.
"It's a real human story with a tragic figure at the center," he said. "Cranston wisely explores the depths of his power and ruthlessness and his humor makes him more human."
Dirden is certain that the play will resonate with multiple generations. "The play is structured like HOUSE OF CARDS, the Netflix series that is so good. The fact that so many people watch it tells me that Americans are hungry for the personal stories behind the legislative process," he said. "I think this is going to have mass appeal. For those interested in the nostalgic history, it will strike a special chord, and those who haven't lived through it will get it, too.
"This play challenges you to demand that your elected officials push for you," he said.
Playing Dr. King is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, he said. "I think that there are some roles that come into your life where you are very aware that it wouldn't have happened if not for every single moment of your life that went before it."
He doesn't expect many roles to compare. "How am I going to top this one?" he laughed.
All The Way is playing at the Neil Simon Theatre, 250 W. 52nd St. between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.