Review: EISENHOWER: THIS PIECE OF GROUND at Rubicon Theatre

Don't miss this hit historical one-man show through March 10th

By: Feb. 27, 2024
Review: EISENHOWER: THIS PIECE OF GROUND at Rubicon Theatre
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An acclaimed hit Off-Broadway, Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground runs through March 10th at the award-winning Rubicon Theatre in charming downtown Ventura.

Review: EISENHOWER: THIS PIECE OF GROUND at Rubicon Theatre
John Rubinstein stars in 
Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground

This one person historical play by Richard Hellesen is an absolute joy.  Watching Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground, I literally forgot I was watching a one person show.  Tony award winning, Broadway and Hollywood star John Rubinstein is a fascinating and charismatic actor, with uncannily perfect comedic timing.  On opening night, there was no shortage of wildly raucous laughter from the audience.  Everyone in the audience seemed to be having the time of their lives.  If you love history, WWII or the midcentury era, you are probably already sold on this show.  But I can assure you that even if your worst fears are sitting through a history lesson, Eisenhower is delightful.  Compelling, thought-provoking, moving, and surprisingly funny, you do not want to miss this one.

The show is set in 1962, one year after Eisenhower has left the presidency.  Eisenhower is working on his memoirs at home, while stinging under the recent low presidential ranking given to him by historians in New York Magazine.  He intimately shares with us the great and small moments of his life, the things he is immensely proud of (creating NASA, signing Civil Rights legislation, balancing the budget, leading the Cold War, and modernizing US transportation by creating the Interstate Highway System), the things he is conflicted about (all the soldiers who died under his command in the Normandy invasion on D-Day), and his most painful moments (the guilt he feels over the death of his three year old son).  John Rubinstein's performance as Eisenhower is a true masterpiece.

Review: EISENHOWER: THIS PIECE OF GROUND at Rubicon Theatre
John Rubinstein as Dwight D. Eisenhower
at Rubicon Theatre

This is an immensely quotable show with brilliant writing.  Acclaimed playwright Richard Hellesen has created something quite remarkable.  Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground brings us vibrantly into the past while commenting and informing our own time.  The audience spontaneously broke into applause numerous times, and reacted energetically as lines landed.  Superb director Peter Ellenstein keeps up the punchy, energetic pacing, so that the show never lags for a second.  I was spellbound.

I normally loathe projections in theatre.  I feel that they are one of those pernicious trends I wish would just die.  But even I have to confess that that Joe Huppert’s projection design in Eisenhower is wonderful, allowing us to step into Eisenhower’s personal memories and dramatic moments in history.  Staging of Eisenhower's living room at his farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is charming, thoughtful and richly detailed.  I love scenic designer Michael Deegan's work, down to the delectable midcentury furnishings like the clunky rotary phone, lamps and coffee pot.

Review: EISENHOWER: THIS PIECE OF GROUND at Rubicon Theatre
John Rubinstein stars in 
Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground

This was my first time at the historic Rubicon Theatre in beachy, idyllic downtown Ventura.  I was completely enchanted by the Rubicon.  In a converted 1920s church, this place has serious charm and atmosphere.  It is the opposite of sterile, modern theatre boxes.  Like the iconic Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, going to the Rubicon Theatre is more than seeing a play, it is a transportive night out, especially with dinner or a stroll around the seaside and pier nearby.  The entire award-winning Rubicon Theatre Company team, from co-founder and producing artistic director Karyl Lynn Burns down to every usher, are refreshingly lovely, eager to share their love of theatre, kind-hearted and welcoming.  The atmosphere here at the Rubicon is very special.

Review: EISENHOWER: THIS PIECE OF GROUND at Rubicon Theatre
Tony award winner, Broadway and 
Hollywood star John Rubinstein

It is an unexpected pleasure to see a show that is erudite and profoundly reflective while crowd-pleasing and entertaining, a nearly impossible ambition to pull off.  Nolan’s "Oppenheimer" recently performed a similar miracle.  I love seeing something as unabashedly, stirringly patriotic as Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground, while never shying away from darkness and struggle.  This historical play is a true tonic in an age of widespread cynicism, burnout, hysteria, and discord.  Its optimism and thoughtfulness feel regenerative, inspiring.  An usher confessed to me that Eisenhower makes her cry every time.  “Our country is suffering so much right now,” she told me, “we need this.”   I could not have put it better.

Photos by Lore Photography

Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground runs at the Rubicon Theatre through March 10th.  The Rubicon Theatre is located at 1006 E Main St, Ventura, CA 93001.  For tickets call (805) 667-2900 or click on the button below:

 




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