Culture

Theater review: ‘All the Way’ goes too far


How old were you and what were you doing in 1963? Were you even born then? If you’re under 55, you were not.

In Saturday night’s opening audience for the Palo Alto Players’ production of “All the Way,” some were in their mid-20s then — but many were teens, toddlers — or not yet a twinkle in their parents’ eyes.

Plus anyone old enough to remember 1963 likely has only one vivid political memory: The horrible tragedy on November 22 when President John F. Kennedy was shot and died in Dallas. For a long time afterward, politics really didn’t matter much as the nation mourned the death of the charismatic young president and obsessed about his beautiful young widow and two small children who handled that adversity with heartbreaking dignity.

So Robert Schenkkan’s 2012 play, “All the Way” is likely a puzzlement to many theatergoers. It’s basically a story of Lyndon Baines Johnson’s abrupt ascension to the presidency, his first few months trying to settle into that role while attempting to put his own mark on the months leading up to the 1964 primary (and subsequent presidential election).

But — whoa! — the way Schenkkan throws long-gone (and mostly long-forgotten) politicos about, he obviously assumes more people were paying attention to Congressional activities in that era. Sure, most people know who Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey was. After all, he became Johnson’s vice president and tried, unsuccessfully, to win the presidency himself in 1968.

Alabama Governor George Wallace also made a name for himself over the years; some would say he became infamous rather than famous, so his is also a recognizable name. Senator Edward Dirksen might be familiar — at least to the gray-haired crowd.

But … Georgia Senator Richard Russell? Who??? Johnson’s long-time aide Walter Jenkins? Who?? James Corman, William Colmer, Paul B. Johnson: Who, who and who?

Candidly, there’s only just so much politics one can stomach these days.

It’s not that some of the actors (there are many) aren’t true to their characters or don’t sound convincing (although some do not). It’s just that from the audience’s viewpoint, much of what goes on in “All the Way” is a big “Who Cares?”

Basically, it reiterates what so many already feel: Politics can be dirty, and most politicians either are — or eventually become — crooked, corrupt and unscrupulous.

That’s not to discount some fine portrayals in the PAP drama. Surprisingly, lead actor Michael Monagle doesn’t quite convince in his interpretation of The Man himself. It’s not just that he really doesn’t look like LBJ, nor even sound like him (there’s only a hint of a drawl here and there). The primary problem is that Schenkkan’s script (or perhaps Peter Allas’ direction) doesn’t give us the authentic Johnson. By all accounts, he could put on that good-old-boy Southern charm whenever needed, yet Monagle shows little of that side of him.

Johnson could also out-swear just about anyone, lacing profanity into every conversation. But, since profanity wouldn’t go over well with most audiences today, it’s likely some cuss words were …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment

      

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