Lyndon Baines Johnson was quite a character and Bryan Cranston is quite an actor in his portrayal of Mr. Johnson – “the accidental President” in all his glory – warts and all – from the minute he took office after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas – November 1963 until his election victory the following year and all that happened in between – most importantly the passage of a Civil Rights Act and the emergence of Saigon on the horizon.
We are like flies on the wall of the Senate Chamber-like set designed by Christopher Acebo as we watch and listen to history reliving itself at the Neil Simon Theatre where a volatile Bryan Cranston charms and manipulates, flatters and deals, finagles and tells tales – enjoying his own brand of humor, and putting the screws on with a smile so that he can get what he wants – whatever that really is.
He sounds like LBJ. He looks like LBJ with a pair of distinctive false earlobes that rival those of Dumbo – which LBJ was anything but. He knew what he wanted and knew how to get it. Not always nice. Not always fair. But he got what he wanted. How to win? BY NOT LOSING!
Holland Taylor in ANN her one woman play about Ann Richards succeeded mightily in a tour de force performance that Mr., Cranston – another television favorite is giving as LBJ. However he is supported by a cast of over twenty fine actors, in Robert Schenkkan’s lucid and enlightening script that director Bill Rauch keeps moving along at a fast clip that makes the almost three hour production seem just right.
With terrific projections by Shawn Sagady, scenes move from location to location speedily and without interruption allowing us to focus on the incredible machinations of our elected officials and the hypocrisy and underhanded dealings of the people in charge of running our government making us wonder how anything of merit is ever accomplished. ALL THE WAY is a real eye opener.
Act I deals with the passage of the Civil Rights Act with all its difficulties and compromises. Act II with LBJ’s nail biter of an election. Brought to vivid life are Hubert Humphrey (Robert Petkoff) J. Edgar Hoover (Michael McKean) Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Brandon J. Dirden) Gov. George Wallace (Rob Campbell) and Walter Jenkins (Christopher Liam Moore) et al.
Many will go to ALL THE WAY simply to see Mr. Bryan Cranston. And rightfully so. He is amazing in his portrayal. But the real star is LBJ with his complicated and conflicted personality that is illuminated in this fully realized production that uncovers the way things really get done and undone in Washington D.C.
Photos: Evgenia Eliseeva
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