Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
All The Way
Asolo Repertory Theatre
Review by William S. Oser | Season Schedule
Also see Bill's review of The Book of Mormon
The first production in this year's repertory season at Asolo Repertory Theatre is Robert Schenkkan's All The Way, a historical panorama which examines President Lyndon Baines Johnson's partial term after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. During this period he promoted and saw the passage of an historical Civil Rights bill, fought for his party's nomination, and then was elected to a term of his own as President. This is fascinating stuff if you lived through the period or have a healthy interest in political history.
Nick Wyman and A.K. Murtadha
Photo by Cliff Roles
The play requires huge forces26 actors are listed and much of the acting is not as sharp as I would like. The only character who is fully developed is LBJ. A few others, such as Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. played by A.K. Murtadha, J. Edgar Hoover played by William Dick, Governor George Wallace played by David Breitbarth, and Hubert Humphrey played by Karl Hamilton are supporting parts, while all most all the other characters are little more than cameos, including the two central women: Lady Bird Johnson played by Denise Cormier and Coretta Scott King played by Tyla Abercrumbie. All of these people are fine actors and have given vivid performances at Asolo Rep and other places. I cannot be sure if the problem is that all these roles are underwritten or that they have been under directed.
Nick Wyman as LBJ gives a strong central performance. At an actor's talkback he revealed that he is working his way through Robert Cato's multi-volume biography of the man and is fascinated by how complex LBJ seems to have been. He then shared that he isn't yet able to show as many facets of Johnson as he wished. I think this is an honest assessment of the performance.
The director is Emily Sophia Knapp, who served as associate director for the very first production of the play at Oregon Shakespeare Festival and for other productions. There are no traffic fatalities on stage, but much of what goes on around LBJ is not strongly focused and could have used a stronger directorial eye. Also a bit bothersome is the pacing, which seems a bit rushed. The play clocks in at two hours, 35 minutes, including a 15 minute intermission, a bit longer than Asolo audiences seem to like, and I am wondering if administration did not push for speeding it up.
The entire production, including scenic design by Steven C. Kemp, costume design by Sarah Smith, lighting design by David Weiner, projection design by Shawn Sagady, and sound design by Matthew Parker, is based on the original production directed by Bill Rauch.
Tackling All The Way is a huge undertaking for Asolo Rep. It is exciting theater, a production I won't forget anytime soon.
Asolo Repertory Theatre presents All The Way through April 9, 2016, at the Mertz Theatre in the FSU Center. 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, Florida. Box Office 941-351-8000. For more information visit www.asolorep.org.
Cast (in order of appearance):
Nick Wyman*: President Lyndon B. Johnson
Denise Cormier*: Lady Bird Johnson/Katharine Graham/Rep. Katharine St. George
Kevin Barber: Walter Jenkins
Matthew McGee*: Tailor/Stanley Levison/Deputy Price/ Seymour Trammell/Speaker John McCormack/Senator Byrd
Lisa Egan Woods: Secretary/Beautiful Woman/Nurse
Karl Hamilton*: Sen. Hubert Humphrey
Joe D. Lauck*: Sen. Richard Russell/Rep. Emanuel Celler
William Dick*: J. Edgar Hoover/Sen Strom Thurmond
Joe Knispel: Robert McNamara/Butler
A.K. Murtadha*: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr.
Michael Kinsey: Rev. Ralph Abernathy/Butler/Choir Member
Chris Alexey Diaz: James Harrison/James Chaney/Aaron Henry/Choir Member
Mark Jacoby*: Cartha "Deke" DeLoach/Rep. Howard "Judge" Smith/Sen. Everett Dirksen/Gov. Carl Sanders
Tyla Abercrumbie*: Coretta Scott King/Fannie Lou Hamer/Choir Member
Don Walker: Sen. James Eastland/Rep. William Moore McCulloch/Gov. Paul Johnson, Jr.
David Breitbarth*: Gov. George Wallace/Rep. James Corman/Sen. Mike Mansfield/Walter Reuther
Kim Stephenson: Muriel Humphrey/Lurleen Wallace
Tom Harney: King f Norway/Butler/Barber/Secret Service
Sean Michael: Stokely Carmichael/Choir Member
Ernest Perry, Jr.*: Roy Wilkins/Shoeshiner/Choir Member
Brian Keys: Bob Moses/David Dennis
Josh James: Michael "Mickey" Schwerner/FBI
Jordan Ben Sobel: Rep. William Colmer/Network Correspondent/Nobel Announcer/Rep. Halleck/FBI
Evan Reynolds White+: Andrew Goodman/Reporter #1/Sen. Clark
Kelsey Petersen: New Orleans Announcer/Reporter #2/Sen. Neuberger
Mark Comer: Edwin King/Rep. Willis/FBI Foreman*=Member of Actors' Equity Association
+=Appears courtesy of Actors' Equity Association
Directed by Emily Sophia Knapp
Scenic Design: Steven C. Kemp
Costume Design: Sarah Smith
Lighting Design: David Weiner
Projection Design: Shawn Sagady
Sound Design: Matthew Parker
Composer: Paul Prendergast
Hair/Wig & Make-up Design: Michelle Hart
Voice * Dialect Coach: Patricia Delorey
Dramaturg: Lauryn Sasso
Production Stage Manager: Kelly A. Borgia*
Assistant Stage Manager: Nia Sciarretta*
Directing Fellow: Shaun Patrick Tubbs