Monday, November 27, 2006

Greater Tuna (Beck Center)

‘GREATER TUNA’ an enjoyable escape at Beck

Tuna, Texas is the third smallest city in Texas. Well, if there was such a place as Tuna, Texas, it would be the third smallest city. Tuna is the mythical setting for the trilogy of comedic plays written by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard. Their first script was ‘GREATER TUNA,’ which is now on stage at Beck Center.

The plays examine the redneck, red-state mentality of people who are members of the clan, see UFOs, sell used assault weapons, set up a “limited” Spanish language program which consists of five phrases, regularly destroy rock-and-roll records, and try and remove books from the library. The books and the reasons? ‘ROOTS’ only tells one side of the slave story; ‘ROMEO AND JULIET’ encourages teen-age sex; and ‘HUCK FINN’ tells of a relationship between a delinquent white youth and a black man.

Though it was written a quarter-century ago, most of the humor is still topical.

There are 20 characters in the script. Wow, a huge cast! Actually, not so. All twenty characters are played by 2 men! How do they do it? They change their vocalizations, toss wigs on and off, become quick change artists as the costumes change constantly. Kudos to Jinniver Sparano, the costume designer and dresser, who has recently become the queen of stripping and reclothing actors. (She recently carried out the same task for the cast of ‘M4M’ at Cleveland Public Theatre.)

Who are the characters? "Hanging Judge" Buckner was found dead of a stroke while he was wearing a Dale Evans one-piece swimsuit. R.R. Snavely, aided by a bottle of Mogen-David, saw a UFO that looked like "a giant hovering chimichanga without the guacamole." Elderly Pearl Burras loves nothing better than to slip a strychnine pill into a biscuit, wrap it in a dough ball and feed it to dogs. And the loonies are commented upon by Thurston and Arles who run the local radio station.

Nicholas Koesters (Arles)portrays an array of characters including the gun-selling Didi, the over sympathetic director of the Humane Society, both a brother and his sister, and the leader of the “Smut Snatchers.” He does all of them well.

Kevin Joseph Kelly (Thurston) is delightful as the dog Yippy, an old lady, a misguided mother and the sheriff. The eulogy he delivers as Reverend Spikes at Judge Brucker’s funeral, is hilarious. Though his characterizations are not quite as keyed as Koesters’ portrayals, Kelly is excellent.

Sparano’s costumes are perfectly tacky. A higher compliment could not be given. Richard Ingraham’s sound design enforces and bridges the various segments.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Need an escape from holiday stress and the same-old, same-old holiday entertainment? Well, hook up the sleigh, or the trusty SUV, and get out to Beck Center in Lakewood for an hour-and-a-half of fun.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Santaland Diaries (Cleveland Public Theatre)

Cute, but not wonderful ‘SANTALAND DIARIES’ at CPT

Want a fun holiday job? How about working as one of Santa’s elfs in a major department store? Think of it this way: you’d be surrounded by lots of toys, be in a winter wonderland setting, listen to cute kids tell their wishes to a wise Santa, and hobnob with “the” man--the guy in the red suit.

When David Sedaris was 33-years old and desperate for a job while waiting for his big break in New York, he saw an ad for a Santa’s helper at Macy’s Department store. A perfect holiday job, he thought. Oh, how wrong he was.

Sedaris, who is a National Public Radio humorist and author of such delightful books as ‘NAKED’ and ‘ME TALK PRETTY ONE DAY,’ delves into his own life for his stories. This is the case with ‘SANTALAND DIARIES,’ a story which is both humorous and sardonic. It can be viewed locally on stage at Cleveland Public Theatre.

Andrew Tarr, who portrays Sedaris in this one-person show, is quite entertaining. However, he misses that extra spark that is needed to get all the laughs out of the piece which includes comments about Santas, parents, kids and coworkers. The Santas run from the insane to the philosophical. He recounts tales of maniacal parents whose main goal in life is to get the “perfect” holiday picture and have their kids enjoy themselves even if the parent has to beat the kid into being the happy. The kids range from the pleasers to the “pee-ers.” Co-workers vary from the dwarf to the ditz who wants to be an elf “all year long.”

Director Mindy Childress Herman needed to work with Tarr on comic timing. Some of the necessary pauses, stresses and facial gyrations, which make for comedy, were not well-keyed. That is not to say Tarr isn’t entertaining. He is, but he could have been hysterical with the right guidance.

Capsule judgement: “SANTALAND DIARIES” is a creative piece which gets a pleasant production at Cleveland Public Theatre. P.S. It is not for the kids!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Spitfire Grill (Clague Playhouse)

Clague’s ‘THE SPITFIRE GRILL’ is well-done

In 1997 Lee David Zlotoff’s film version of ‘THE SPITFIRE GRILL’ received the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival. When writers James Valcq and Fred Alley transformed the screenplay into a musical for the stage, the off Broadway production won the Richard Rogers Production Award. That script is now on stage at Clague Playhouse.

As the play starts, Percy is singing of “A Ring Around the Moon” from her jail cell, yearning for a view without bars on the window. When she is released she decides to start a new life in Gilead, Wisconsin, a location she selected because of a nature picture she found in an old travel book. The authors’ choice of the city’s name is not accidental. In the Old Testament a reference is made to a salve noted for healing--the balm of Gilead (Jeremiah 46:11). This allusion supports the play’s themes of healing and hope.

The town sheriff, Joe Sutter, takes Percy to the Spitfire Grill. Here, Percy meets Hannah, a seemingly hardened woman, who reluctantly takes her in and gives her a job.

Effy, the town postmistress and busybody, is immediately suspicious of Percy, as is Caleb, Hannah’s nephew. They make it known that a jailbird isn’t welcome in their midst. It is the shy Shelby, Caleb’s wife, who is the only one willing to suspend judgment. Hannah accidentally falls and injures her leg, Percy gets her medical help, Effy spreads the story that Percy pushed Hannah down a flight of stairs, Hannah puts Percy in charge of the grill. Percy’s cooking proves to be nearly lethal, Shelby helps out, Percy also takes over Hannah’s unexplained ritual of leaving a loaf of bread next to a stump behind the grill. Hannah has been trying to sell the grill for years with no luck. Percy and Shelby, come up with a scheme for an essay contest with an entry fee of $100 with the winner awarded the restaurant. And so, the pieces are all set in place for an obvious, but audience pleasing climax.

One of the keymarks of a well-crafted book musical is that each of the songs focuses on the development of the story line. “THE SPITFIRE GRILL’ fulfills that definition as throughout, there is a perfect flow of lyrics and script that carry the story along.

Why did such a wonderful little musical not get its deserved attention? Theatre audiences never really got the opportunity to experience the production because the show opened only three days before the 9/11 tragedy. The calamity closed down much of New York theatre. The show lasted only four weeks.

Clague’s production, which is peopled by amateur actors, is excellent. Director Don Irven has paced the show well, staged it with intelligence, makes sure that the lyrics are sung for meaning, and most of the characters are clearly drawn.

Heather Balogh makes Percy live. She has a nice country twanged voice. Sarah Portz, as the put-upon Shelby, is character-perfect. She has the finest singing voice in the cast. George Kukich, who has an acceptable singing voice, develops a believably shy Joe. Mary Jane Nottage is delightful as Hannah and does a nice job of presenting her songs in spite of a limited singing range. Mitch Manthey is inconsistent as Hannah’s nephew Calab. His character comes and goes and often doesn’t build into his argumentative self, just explodes. Only Paige Reich, as Effy, the town gossip, fails to be close to believable. She is much too emotionally controlled, not meddling and chattering enough.

Ron Newell’s fragmented set, Lance Switzer’s lighting and Casey Jones’ sound effects enhance the production.

Musical Director John Franks’ orchestra, which consists of an accordion, violin, guitar, mandolin, cello and keyboard, is excellent.

Capsule Judgement: Clague’s ‘THE SPITFIRE GRILL,’ which is a delightful and imaginative journey of self-discovery, is a very good amateur production. It is well worth a trip to Westlake!

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Pack of Lies (Cesear's Forum)

‘PACK OF LIES’--interesting script, ponderous production

Hugh Whitemore’s ‘PACK OF LIES,’ now in production at Cesear’s Forum, is based on the 1961 arrest of a husband-and-wife Soviet spy team in England. (The couple were convicted and sentenced to twenty years imprisonment.) The spies, Americans Peter and Helen Kroger (really Morris and Lona Cohen), appear to be a typical suburban couple, but nothing could be farther from the truth.

Set in London, the play reveals the stresses placed on the up-tight and up-right Jackson family who get thrust into the middle of an investigation by the mysterious Stewart, who talks them into allowing observers to spy on their neighbors by taking up residency in the Jackson home. The family is eventually forced to chose between loyalty to their country and allegiance to their friends.

As Whitemore explains regarding the play and his motivations (and which might be applied to the 2006 United States), " addition to the themes of loyalty and deception, I became increasingly preoccupied with the role of the ordinary citizen in our society. Is it ever possible for the average, relatively powerless man or woman to make anything more than a token stand against officialdom? Is it not potentially risky to allow the state (albeit for well argued reasons) greater moral license than the individual? Or is it, perhaps, naive to expect more than an approximate degree of truthfulness from governments and their spokesmen?"

In its various productions, the play has been called “compelling,” “an exciting flash of history,” and “a real who-done-it, which evokes attention.”

Unfortunately, none of these terms can be used to identify Cesear’s production under the guidance of director Greg Cesear. The show is slow, beyond sluggish. The excitement, the humor, the twists-and-turns are lost in the plodding pace. The matter is not helped by the uncomfortable seating in Kennedy’s Down Under, where the play is being staged.

The cast varies from excellent to misguided. Julia Kolibab as Barbara Jackson, who is forced to chose between friendship and forced honor, is excellent. As the stress builds, Kolibab, has a near nervous breakdown before our eyes. Though overly deliberate, Steven Hoffman, is quite good as the husband who puts aside his loyalty to his wife to do his perceived civic duty. Jennifer Mae Hoffman is basically on-target as their teenage daughter.

Juliette Regnier, usually one of the area’s more competent actresses, seems lost in the role of the “ditsy” spy Helen. She never settles into a character. If the real Helen couldn’t act any better than Regnier, she would have been found out in an instant. Tom Jessup (Peter Kroger) never makes us believe that the character is a real person.

Paul Floriano, who I always expect to be excellent, disappoints, as he doesn’t ring true as Stewart, the spy chaser. His levels of concentration seemed to leave him at times. In several scenes with Steven Hoffman, there appeared to be line problems.

Capsule judgment: ‘PACK OF LIES’ is an interesting play that gets less than a stellar production at Cesear’s Forum.

Christopher Fortunato reviews the reviewer

Dear Mr. Berko,

I enjoyed reading this review of Cats. I have had the fortune of being in performances you have reviewed.

I especially liked your note of cats grooming themselves etc, ie, being cats. Previous productions of CATS I have seen involved cats grooming themselves, being social to other cats while the performance was going on since cats would do that in feline life.

Good observation.

Christopher Fortunato, EMC

Friday, November 17, 2006

Cat (Playhouse Square Center)

Touring production of ‘CATS’ is cat-lite

Midnight. Not a sound from the pavement. Suddenly an explosion of music and lights reveals a larger-than-life junkyard. Probing lights dart across the darkened landscape, catching the darting image of a running feline. Tonight is the one special night each year when the tribe of Jellicle Cats reunites to celebrate who they are. The stage explodes as one by one the cats appear! Thus starts ‘CATS,’ Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical, based on “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” by T. S. Eliot. A touring company is now performing the show at the Palace Theatre in Playhouse Square.

With no plot and a few memorable songs (“Memory” and “The Moments of Happiness”) one must wonder why ‘CATS,’ which opened twenty-five years ago has become such a hit. In fact, it holds the record as the longest running play in the history of Broadway musical theatre.

The answer may have been given by an original cast member of the New York show during a Smithsonian Museum’s symposium ,“The Actor’s Role in the Musical,” which I attended in Washington, D.C. several years ago. A member of the audience asked why the show is such a cult hit. The response centered on the belief that the audience became so entranced by each actor “becoming” the cat he or she was portraying, that the viewers were transported into the world of cats. He went on to say that the costumes, the special effects and the makeup were also important elements.

That answer explains why this production is less than wonderful. It’s too bad that tour director and choreographer Richard Stafford and his cast didn’t attend that lecture. At no time during this staging did I forget that actors were “pretending” to be cats, not being cats, themselves. Former productions I have seen made that transition. The actors stayed in character throughout. They cleaned themselves, they stretched, they rubbed against each other, they WERE cats. Part of this lack of character depth may be that the cast members are almost all in their first touring show and few have had professional experience. Besides being cat-lite, they are experience-lite.

A friend commented at intermission, “I’ve seen this play numerous times and something is missing.” When I mentioned the cat-factor, she smiled and said, “That’s it!”

The elaborate sets work, the musical sounds are fine, the cast sings and dances well, the choreography is good (not electric, but good), but the show doesn’t have the necessary spark that would make it great.

Did the production get a standing ovation? Of course. Cleveland audiences seem to believe that they have to stand and cheer no matter whether the quality of a production deserves it or not. It’s like giving every student in class an “A.” It makes the receiver feel good, but it is disingenuous. How do you really praise excellence when it happens? But, that’s a topic for another review...

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: For the majority of the audience, ‘CATS’ will be a positive experience. For those who can discern the acceptable from the great, this production of ‘CATS’ will be less than ‘purr-fection.”

Monday, November 13, 2006

Nite Club Confidential (Kalliope Stage)

Kalliope’s ‘NITE CLUB CONFIDENTIAL’ short on substance

Since its inception three years ago, Kalliope Stage has had many exciting and well executed shows such as ‘THE SUMMER OF ‘42,’ OPAL,’ ‘CABARET’ and ‘BABY.’ Unfortunately, their latest offering, ‘NITE CLUB CONFIDENTIAL’ can’t be added to that list.

The shallowness of the show is surprising since, according to program notes, the show, as directed by Kalliope’s artistic director Paul F. Gurgol, was nominated for five Barrymore awards in Philadelphia. How? I’m not sure. The story line is weak, many of the songs in the cabaret-formatted script are bland, and the staging lacks dynamism.

At the start, the theatre goes black. Three shots are heard, sirens sound, the lights come up and a body is sprawled on the stairs. The corpse rises and he tells us that we are going to view a dramatic parody that highlights an Eisenhower administration/jazz-era time period musical, and have a glimpse of club glamour of the times.

‘NITE CLUB CONFIDENTIAL,’ with book by Dennis Deal and songs and arrangements by Deal and Albert Evans, revolves around the fading career of Kay Goodman, a Sinatra wannabe Buck Holden, and a group named The High Hopes.

The score includes “Comment Allez-Vous?,” “Love Isn’t Born, It’s Made,” “Nothing Can Replace a Man,” “The Canarsie Diner,” “He Never Leaves His Love Behind,” and “Crazy New Words.” Never heard of them,? Don’t worry, you haven’t missed much. On the other hand, “Goody Goody,” “I Thought About You,” and “That Old Black Magic” may be familiar.

The story doesn’t hold together well, the lines are often corny, the reprises are excessive and the personalities don’t ring true.

Gurgol’s directing doesn’t help much. Segments drag, the choreography is stilted, and the characterizations are often flat. With the exception of the song “Cloudburst,” the song renditions aren’t memorable. At intermission a jazz aficionada was overheard commenting on the lack of effective arrangements.

The cast is uneven. Slight, handsome Steve Parmenter fails to create a believable character as Buck, the manipulating limited in talent singer/dancer who attempts to sleep his way to the top. As with the script, Parmenter is more show that substance.

Trudi Posey tries too hard as the washed up former star. She is quite unbelievable. There is no sexual energy between her and Parmenter, a requisite for the parts. The same can be said for Parmenter and Liz O’Donnell, who portrays Trudi, supposedly Buck’s real love. O’Donnell comes out as the strongest performer and singer in the production. Charles Statham and Mark Ludden sing well but are less than convincing as the remaining members of The High Hopes.

Technically, the show is solid. Kim Brown’s costumes, especially the women’s dresses are smashing. Lance Switzer and Steven Shack’s lighting design and Krystyna Loboda’s red and black tacky set works well. Musical Director Michael Hamilton and his orchestra are quite good.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Kalliope Stage has proven it is so much better than their present staging of ‘NITE CLUB CONFIDENTIAL.’ Let’s hope the real talent of the director and the cast comes forth in their next production.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Singing in the Rain (Carousel Dinner Theatre)

The sun almost shines at SINGING IN THE RAIN at Carousel

A recent survey revealed that the five most liked movie musicals are ‘CHICAGO,’ ‘WEST SIDE STORY,’ ‘THE SOUND OF MUSIC,’ ‘THE WIZARD OF OZ,’ and ‘SINGING IN THE RAIN.’ The first three were original plays which transformed into cinematic form. The latter two were transformed from the silver screen to the stage. While Oz is an enchanting story with lots of societal implications, Rain is a piece of escapism that was brought to fame because of the wonderful performances of Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds and Gene Kelly.

The story is based at a time when Hollywood was making the transition from silent films to talkies. Don Lockwood and Lina Lamont are the king and queen of the silent screen. (Think Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. and Mary Pickford.) Unfortunately, after the ‘JAZZ SINGER’ became a hit, the day of the silent film was gone. Lamont, a dumb blond with a squealing voice, can’t make the transition, so an idea is hatched to have the charming and vocally proficient Kathy Seldon lip-sinc for her. As happens in feel-good musicals, all turns out well as Lamont is revealed for what she is, and Seldon winds up with stardom and Lockwood.

Macio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed’s musical score is filled with audience pleasers including “Fit as a Fiddle,” “You Stepped out of a Dream,” “You Were Meant for Me,” “Good Morning,” and “Would You.”

Because of a slightness of the Betty Comden and Adolph Green plot, the stage version, which closely follows the movie story line, must have three super talents to pull it off. The Carousel Dinner Theatre production does have two of the necessary three. Amanda Rose is pretty, charming and gifted. Her Kathy is delightful. Richard Strimer is wonderful as Cosmo, the Donald O’Connor character. He sings, dances and clowns well. His only clunker is the usually delightful “Make “Em Laugh’ which fails to amuse. It isn’t his fault, he gives his all, but the segment is poorly conceived by director/choreographer Marc Robbin.

The missing performance element is the character of Don Lockwood, the Gene Kelly role. This is a case of miscasting. Curt Dale Clark doesn’t physically look like nor does he effectively act the role of the handsome and charming swashbuckler. He has an adequate singing voice and his dancing leaves much to be desired. In comparison to Strimer, who lights up the stage, the chunky Clark barely lifts his feet. In the usually wonderful “Singin’ in the Rain” number he spends most of his time splashing the audience with water. None of the Gene Kelly magic here.

Besides the performances of Strimer and Rose, the Carousel show does have many other positives. Rain, yes real rain, falls on the stage several times. The patrons in the first several rows have been given slickers so they don’t get totally soaked. The wet gimmick is a sure audience pleaser.

In addition, Barbara Helms is wonderfully obnoxious as the scheming Lina Lamont and Dominic Sheahan-Stahl displays a fine voice in “You Are My Lucky Star.” The singing and dancing choruses are fine.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Carousel’s ‘SINGING IN THE RAIN’ has enough laughs and gimmicks to please most audience members. Too bad for the miscasting of the lead male role. With the right person in that part, this could have been a total winning production.

Arms and the Man (Actors' Summit)

‘ARMS AND THE MAN’ highlights Shaw’s message at Actors’ Summit

George Bernard Shaw’s ‘ARMS AND THE MAN’ is presently in production at Actors’ Summit.

A director of ‘ARMS AND THE MAN’ has a decision to make. Should the play be staged as a comedy or as a no-holds-barred farce? The former approach allows Shaw’s lines to carry the humor and create the message. The latter allows the audience to have a whale of a good time laughing at the outlandishness of the actors, the setting, overblown concept, and even the costumes.

When the Shaw Festival of Canada produced the show earlier this year, the director did it as a no-holds-barred farce. The characters were much bigger than life. The lines were so broadly presented that everything short of holding up “laugh now” signs was present.

The result was that Shaw’s messages, including women’s rights (“People don’t live up to their ideals.”), the ridiculousness of the upper classes (“Everything I think is mocked by everything I do.”), the stupidity of war (“War is a sham, like love.”), and the absurdity of existence (“Life’s a farce.”) were often not on the surface for all to grasp, but the audience had one heck of a good time.

A. Neil Thackaberry, the director of the Actor’s Summit production, decided to follow Shaw’s own words, “Life isn’t a farce,” and present the play as a comedy. In general, the languid pace and Shavian message-centered-approach worked well.

The story concerns Raina, the wealthy young daughter of a rich Bulgarian nobleman and her relationships with a pompous, weak-minded yet extremely handsome military bumbler, as well as the “Chocolate Soldier,” an intelligent, charming mercenary who is befriended when he sneaks into her bed chamber in order to avoid being killed by her countrymen. Through a series of unbelievable and silly incidents, everything turns out exactly as it should.

The production is blessed with some wonderful performances by Alicia Kahn, Dana Hart, Dorothy Silver and Reuben Silver.

Kahn creates her Raina as a spoiled, dreamer of fairy-tale love, who is also a pragmatist. She is both charming and delightful in creating a consistent characterization.

Hart, as Captain Bluntschli, is right on key as the clever mercenary, who, like his beloved chocolate creams, is crusty on the outside, but soft on the inside. He creates an appealing “chocolate soldier.”

The Silvers, as always, texture their characters as Raina’s parents, with meaningful double-takes and delightful character development.

On the other hand, Joe Bishara as the supposedly arrogant Sergius, just isn’t pompous and self-puffed up enough. He looks the role, but plays at being Sergius, rather than being the character. His inconsistency is the major weakness of the production. Sally Groth as Louka, the servant, is adequate, but doesn’t have the spark, the incendiary characteristics needed to make her more royalty than servant.

Working on a limited budget, Mary Jo Alexander’s costumes are quite representative of the era, but lack of the quality to make for total believability. The set was not of the opulence that would be expected by the “only family in Bulgaria to have a library.” The humor of the “only library” was ruined because the room was missing books. There should have been a few clearly highlighted volumes to draw the irony of Shaw’s stressing the literary storage area. (This is another of Shaw’s hits on the inept educational system and showmanship rather than actual edification of the upper classes.)

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: Actors’ Summit’s ‘ARMS AND THE MAN’ makes for a pleasant evening of theatre, which has a languid pace that cuts down on the gaiety, but does increase understanding of Shaw’s concepts, making it a production worth seeing.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

RFK (Cleveland Play House)

Interesting, but not compelling view of Robert Kennedy at CPH

“War. It’s a terrible tragedy.” “Violent revenge is not American.” “We don’t know why we are at war.” “The dollars are being wasted on the war.” Sound like assertions from 2006 political advertisements? No, these are statements made by Robert Fitzgerald Kennedy, President John F. Kennedy’s youngest brother, who is the subject of ‘RFK,’ now on stage at the Cleveland Play House.

‘RFK,’ which enjoyed an extended run Off-Broadway, is a one-man show which was written by and stars Jack Holmes .

The production notes for the play, which was originally entitled, ‘THE AWFUL GRACE OF GOD: A PORTRAIT OF ROBERT F. KENNEDY,’ state, “By late summer 1964, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, still in shock and consumed with grief over the assassination of his older brother was at a crossroad in his life. The presidential election was approaching and President Lyndon Johnson finally called him to the White House to end months of speculation over whether or not he would be Johnson’s Vice Presidential running mate. The result of that meeting, and the subsequent direction of RFK’s life, are the focus of the play. Going backward and forward in time, we see Kennedy grow from husband to father to grieving brother to New York senator to outspoken critic of the war in Vietnam to Democratic Presidential candidate."

The play tries to earnestly trace RFK’s successes, his bi-polar like personality, and his conflicts with Lyndon Johnson and Edgar Hoover. Unfortunately, the action is too obvious, often too patterned to grab and hold our attention. Part of the problem may be that, from the start, anyone who knows history, knows the outcome. There is no mystery. And, though there are humorous moments, especially when the words seem like 2006 comments about President Bush and his administration, the goings-on often sound like a long campaign speech and commercial sound bites.

As Holmes transitions from Kennedy’s various offices, to the senate floor, to stops on the campaign trail, to his chaotic home, the audience is lead by David Weiner’s effective lighting, James C. Swonger’s impactful sound design and Neil Patel’s visually clarifying back wall of patchwork of geometric shapes, which change from flags to mood enhancers.

Though his accent waivers, and he too systematically and too often fixes his flopping hair, Holmes is generally effective. In fact, his acting is basically better than his writing. There is a lot of sentimental language, platitudes and slogans which attempt to represent reality. It skims the surface without always delving into causes for the speeches and reactions.

Yes, Robert F. Kennedy was shy, yet intense. He, according to the script, “Saw wrong and tried to right it…saw suffering and tried to heal it…saw war…and tried to stop it.” But, what really caused a rich kid from a politically astute family who married a strong dominant woman, to be who he was. We really don’t find that out.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: For those who are fascinated by the Kennedy legend, who like biographies, and are willing to put aside the shallowness of the writing, ‘RFK’ should be of interest. It’s not great theatre, it’s good theatre.