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Good Bobby

A review by Tulis McCall

So, to begin with, Brian Lee Franklin, does a remarkable job as Bobby Kennedy. So remarkable that it is a little Rod Serling-ish. He is also a writer of some depth and insight.

This Good Bobby is good because he did what his father told him to do. He resigned from the Senate committee investigating Jimmy Hoffa and went to work as his brother's campaign manager. But before, during and after that, he was a man with a weak handshake who wanted to so something with his life. He was the one who, when Joe Kennedy said jump, didn't ask "How high?" but "why?" Bobby was battling the voice that told him the only thing memorable about him was his last name, and he was NOT going to wave a white flag no matter what. His brother made him the youngest Attorney General. His drive made him contrary and arrogant on the one hand and vulnerable and uncertain on the other.

Or that is how the story is presented here, and who are we not to believe it? There has been much written about the Kennedy family, but who among us has read any of it? Not me.

So Franklin has carte blanche. He has written his own Kennedy Bible and delivers it chapter and verse. In fast order we see the Hoffa testimony, Bay of Pigs, assassination of Diem, Alabama riots, and we even get a glimpse of the Warren Commission. Franklin is aided by the support of some very good actors who are the key players that surrounded Kennedy. Two who stand out are Dan Lauria who gives a very solid performance as Jimmy Hoffa, who, as Joe Kennedy puts is "hands Bobby his ass on a plate," and is one of the first people to show up after JFK's assassination to personally tell Bobby he didn't do it. Joe Hindy is excellent as a CIA operative who is more chameleon than human. Teamsters and the CIA - some of the extremes between which Kennedy bounced back and forth.

The production overall is hampered by the set design and direction. The set does not use the space at theatre B to best advantage. Bobby's office is so small that his files are in a bankers box, and the only blocking the director could come up with was pours a drink. Drinks. There is more liquid consumed here than you can, pardon my pun, swallow. On the other side of the stage, Joe Kennedy, debilitated by his stroke, eats off a TV tray that Rose sets up in a corner of the set. I don't think so. Joe Kennedy had 24 hour hot and cold running nurses, and the last thing Rose Kennedy would be caught doing was setting up a TV tray. I'm just sayin'.

The Good Bobby is also the public Bobby. As intriguing as are the scenes of Bobby at work, the scenes of home life are disappointing. The dialogue in these scenes is mainly historical facts that Franklin thinks we need to see. We don't, because what is happening back at the office is so much more alive. The problem is compounded when Joe and Rose Kennedy's accents are nowhere near the crisp perfect accent that Franklin has nailed for his portrayal of Bobby.

If this play has a future, and I believe it can, it could use the services of a dramaturge to sort out the story. As it is now, Franklin is overdosing us on facts with the end result that we are left a little bleary eyed when we should be hooked.

Tulis McCall

What the press had to say.....

"about as interesting as watching C-Span"
Gwen Orel
Back Stage

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