“Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade”

Playhouse on Park

Playhouse on Park is currently offering a video stream of the play, “Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade,” written and performed by David Arrow, and it is a riveting and extremely timely show. During the course of about ninety minutes, this playwright/actor brings Bobby Kennedy to life, showing roughly the last four months of Kennedy’s life, while campaigning for president.  What makes this play so relevant to audiences is that a great deal of the issues Bobby Kennedy was trying to change in 1968—racial tensions, dishonest politicians, bringing the country together—are still being played out in our own current political landscape.

Arrow has the accent and the mannerisms down pat to recreate Bobby Kennedy, but this is much more than just a surface-level performance: this actor truly captures the identity and soul of Kennedy, to the point where the actor and person he is bringing to life become one. Director Eric Nightengale has directed the show superbly and the pacing is excellent, with each moment onstage bringing the show closer and closer to its tragic conclusion.  Still, there is a lot of vitality in this play and it holds your attention from beginning to end.  “Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade” would be something of a must-see at any time, but Playhouse on Park’s video stream is extremely appropriate because it is an election year and the issues raised strike all too close to home.

It must be said that it’s wonderful that Playhouse on Park is offering a play of any kind during this pandemic, when live entertainment has been closed down throughout the world.  But, if there was ever a time that one needed the magic of the theatre, it is now.  “Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade” offers that alchemy and more, and the play can really get under one’s skin to the point that the viewer almost becomes part of the action onstage.  This feeling has been conjured up brilliantly, with a good deal of the credit going to the actor/playwright at the center of this one-man show.

As mentioned, David Arrow has gotten the physical details just right to personify Bobby Kennedy, but it is also his gentle manner and command of the stage that truly brings Kennedy to life.  With the help of Katherine R. Mitchell’s incisive projections and James Morgan’s excellent set design, which fills the entire stage, Arrow takes an audience member into something of a time machine, back to the turbulent era of 1968.  With each major world event being detailed precisely and devastatingly, “Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade” is both involving and deeply frightening, especially to those viewers who lived through this era.

But, even for one who wasn’t around in 1968, (such as me), the topics brought to the forefront are almost eerily similar to what is going on in the world today.  Indeed, this show is something of a fun house mirror, as the era being illustrated onstage mixes with the current political climate to the point where it’s hard to separate the two.  This is not to say, however, that this play is at all didactic—if anything, the amount of humor and balance that Arrow has brought to this work allows the show to be entertaining and much more than just a history lesson.

Indeed, it is the stunning power of “Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade,” being offered by Playhouse on Park, that this play draws a viewer close to the person whom Bobby Kennedy was, including his quirks and lovable characteristics, while still keeping one fully aware of how the show must tragically end.  It is also harrowing and more than a bit scary that, as one watches this production, it is clear that a lot of the problems in 1968 have really not become significantly better in 2020.  Do see the video stream of “Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade,” to experience a truly unforgettable evening of theater.

“Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade” will be able to be streamed at home until October 4th. And it must be said that this play has been beautifully filmed for home viewing. For more information and tickets to stream the show, please visit www.playhouseonpark.org.

Photo: David Arrow

Photo by Russ Rowland

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