BWW REVIEW: CRANSTON A BORN LEADER IN 'ALL THE WAY' AT A.R.T.
Written by Robert Schenkkan; directed by Bill Rauch; set design, Christopher Acebo; costume design, Deborah M. Dryden; lighting design, Jan Cox; composer/sound design, Paul James Prendergast; projections, Shawn Sagady; dramaturg, Tom Bryant; dialect coach, Rebecca Clark Carey; associate director, Emily Sophia Knapp; production stage manager, Matthew Farrell
Cast in Order of Speaking:
Bryan Cranston, Betsy Aidem, Christopher Liam Moore, Susannah Schulman, Reed Birney, Dakin Matthews, Michael McKean, Arnie Burton, Brandon J. Dirden, J. Bernard Calloway, Ethan Phillips, William Jackson Harper, Richard Poe, Crystal A. Dickinson, Dan Butler, Peter Jay Fernandez, Eric Lenox Abrams
Performances and Tickets:
Now through October 12, American Repertory Theatre, Loeb Drama Center, 64 Brattle Street, Cambridge, Mass. The run is SOLD OUT, however a limited number of Standing Room Only tickets may be available for certain dates on the day of performance. For information call the Box Office at 617-547-8300.
"I wonder what LBJ would do if he were president today."
That's the thought that kept running through my mind while watching three-time Emmy Award winner Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad, Malcolm in the Middle) positively channel the late president Lyndon Baines Johnson in Robert Schenkkan's terrific new play All the Way. Given that All the Way is currently enjoying a sold-out run at The American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass., I wouldn't be surprised to see it take its place alongside other recent A.R.T.-to-Broadway transfers - Tony Award winners Once, Porgy and Bess and Pippin - and the newly opened and critically acclaimed The Glass Menagerie which just extended through February 2014.
All the Way is part personal profile, part history lesson, and all political power-brokering as Schenkkan masterfully puts today's racial tensions, regressive law-making and Congressional gridlock under the microscope not by drawing obvious parallels but by focusing squarely on a similarly contentious time in the not too distant past. The playwright quite wisely and effectively lets the politicians of the day speak eloquently for themselves.
The time is 1963. President John F. Kennedy has just been assassinated and his crude but whip-smart vice president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, has been sworn into office. A self-professed good old boy from Texas, Johnson craves but doesn't necessarily get the respect he feels he deserves. Simultaneously shocked and excited by his sudden ascent to the presidency, he seizes the power immediately, with great eagerness and relish.
From the get-go Johnson knows that he has a very brief window of opportunity to convince the Democratic Party that he should be their man come election day the following November. That task won't be easy, since Johnson is being pressured by a host of conservative Southern Democrats led by his good friend Sen. Richard Russell and a liberal contingent led by the likable Senator Hubert Humphrey. He also has to contend with the dangerous J. Edgar Hoover who uses the information he gathers as director of the FBI to blackmail and extort. Nevertheless Johnson launches full-throttle toward passing what he believes to be the most important legislation of his time: a Civil Rights Act that includes the crucial Voting Rights Act so adamantly called for by the Reverend DR. Martin Luther King, Jr.