“No memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honor President Kennedy’s memory than the earliest possible passage of the Civil Rights bill for which he fought so long.” – Lyndon Baines Johnson
Five days after John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson, outlined an agenda to Congress. The finagling that followed to enact the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the subject of Robert Schenkkan’s Tony Award-winning play – All the Way.
In Justice Theater Project’s production, Jerry Sipp is a tour-de-force as Johnson. The duality of Sipp’s portrayal as the “accidental president” is as coarse as it is brilliant, and elusive as it is fiery, much like the enigmatical politician himself. Sipp doesn’t idealize this man, but instead remains artfully ambiguous, allowing the audience to decide for themselves whether he was an opportunistic ally or a true champion of equal rights.
Bolstering Sipp’s performance is a skillful ensemble that wholly and emphatically challenges its audience. One shining standout is J. Ra-Chel Fowler’s impassioned portrayal of Fannie Lou Hamer. Her stunning delivery of Hamer’s Congressional testimony humanizes the Civil Rights Movement (beyond all the rhetoric) and embodies the urgency of protecting voting rights.
Director Brook North painstakingly sifts through the script’s complexities by spotlighting key moments that magnify layers of corruption, hypocrisy, and injustice. He clearly understands the Shakespearian way in which Shenkkan is interrogating politics and power and leans into any opportunity to hold up a reprehensible mirror to Southern Democrat philosophies and principles.
All the Way is more of a commentary on the present than the past. It speaks to the state of our nation now while offering a refresher course on just how we got here.
Perhaps Johnson himself says it best.
“Yesterday is not ours to recover, but tomorrow is ours to win or lose.”
All the Way runs through October 23rd. Student tickets are just $5. For more information visit http://www.thejusticetheaterproject.org/. There is a talkback scheduled for October 22 at 6:15 PM between the matinee and evening shows.
For a complete listing of Triangle theater events visit our Calendar Page.