I honestly had no idea what to expect when I walked into Seattle Repertory to see the play “All the Way,” which chronicles the early stages of Lyndon B. Johnson’s accidental presidency. The only other show I’d seen at Seattle Rep was one utilizing commedia dell'arte, an uproariously hilarious Italian style of comedy.
I assumed a play about a president from the ‘60s would be lacking in laughs. You can imagine my shock when the first scenes contained several witty but crass jokes by LBJ himself, whose gruff personality and harrowing life story made a compelling duo. So I guess this is a long way of saying that if you enjoy political drama, sassy remarks, and unexpected humor, “All the Way” is the play for you.
Lyndon B. Johnson faced no shortage of struggles during his presidency, which is often described as accidental, since it was only possible because John F. Kennedy was assassinated while in office. During the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement was growing increasingly violent, with whole swaths of the United States mirroring the present-day riot scenes of Ferguson, Missouri. Naturally, portraying racial tensions is a treacherous undertaking, especially in the light of the Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin killings. Yet “All the Way” does this perfectly by mixing humor, intelligently sarcastic remarks, and hyperbole. Many serious issues of gender and race equality were put in the context of the 1960s and made relatable to the present day.
So, here’s what I leave you with. “All the Way,” while a political play, is not about politics. It’s about balancing morality and making the right choice while trying to keep favor with a group of people whose views are sliding further and further away from yours. It’s about a grumpy old man from Texas who hands out sarcastic remarks like Halloween candy. But more importantly, it’s an example of how to deal with rough topics, like race or gender equality, or even murder, and make the right decision, based not on the opinions of others, but on the gut instinct you feel within yourself.
“All the Way” is playing at the Seattle Rep until January 4, 2015, and its companion piece, “The Great Society” also runs at Seattle Rep from December 5 to January 4, 2015. Be sure to check both of them out this winter!
For tickets, visit https://www.seattlerep.org/Buy/.