Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade – Review by Tom Holehan

As theatres across the country struggle with how to return to live presentations in the wake of a pandemic, several are taking to online streaming services. So it is for Playhouse on Park, the West Hartford theatre company currently in their 12th season, with a show that was initially to be produced live on their stage. Now the film version of “Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade” will stream online for POP audiences through October 4.

“Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade” is a solo play written and performed by David Arrow that portrays the final few months of Kennedy’s life before his assassination in June 1968. The 97-minute drama is comprised primarily of the candidate’s most memorable speeches interspersed with personal asides to the audience. As solo plays go, “Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade” serves its purpose without having a distinct personality or a specific point of view about its subject. It’s all fairly surface material that doesn’t dig much deeper than Bobby’s insecurity with living in the shadow of his famous older brother. Joe Kennedy is mentioned in passing without any acknowledgement of his notorious reputation as politician and father. Still, in the current climate, it’s really refreshing to hear political speeches of substance, thought and reason.

David Arrow has more than a passing resemblance to Kennedy and his total commitment to the role, which he originated off-Broadway, is never in doubt. The famous Boston accent, however, seems overly effete, more English than Bostonian, and it tends to distract rather than engage. He also lacks Bobby’s crucial charismatic ambition. Director Eric Nightengale keeps Arrow busy on James Morgan’s questionable set consisting of a small stage littered with balloons and campaign posters. Repetition sets in every time the actor is asked to climb steps to the podium for one of the many speeches. In addition, more imaginative lighting (Miriam Nilofa Crowe) and sound (Ben Scheff) could have been helpful here even while Kathrine R. Mitchell’s striking projections do successfully recall the turbulent ‘60s quite.
In all, the play is still the next best thing to real live theatre right now, so let’s take some comfort in that.

“Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade” was produced and filmed at the Theatre at St. Clements in NYC for Playhouse on Park. Audiences will be able to stream the show at home until October 4 or choose to view it at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford on Tuesday, September 22 at 7 pm. For more information including supplementary materials and a teaser of the film, visit: www.PlayhouseOnPark.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor and resident critic of WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com.

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