“All the Way” is a riveting drama, anchored by outstanding performances by three tremendous actors portraying three great men, Lyndon Baines Johnson (Nick Wyman), Martin Luther King, Jr. (A.K. Murtadha), and Hubert Humphrey (Karl Hamilton). The play recently opened at Asolo Repertory and continues through April 9th.
Wyman’s tour-de-force turn as LBJ was electrifying. He used his height, lanky physique, and perfect comic timing to create a larger-than-life President. We are first introduced to LBJ at the moment he is thrust into the limelight to become the most powerful leader in the world. He self-effacingly refers to himself as an “accidental President” and begins his term somewhat reluctantly given the tragic and uncomfortable way he is immediately sworn into office.
However, LBJ quickly grabs the reins and begins to use his considerable charms, his sense of whimsy, and unparalleled political prowess to masterfully work the system and get things done. LBJ, unlike his predecessor, grew up poor and had his first job teaching Mexican immigrants, so his passion for civil rights was not borne of noblesse oblige but rather an almost primal drive to right the wrongs he saw all around him as a young person.
The supporting cast were outstanding as they shifted in and out of roles and help set the various scenes, including the Whites Only club, where the old guard, led by Senator Richard Russell (Joe D. Lauck) spoke freely of the racist underpinnings of their stated desire to “preserve” the Constitution.
Denise Cormier and Tyla Abercrumbie, whose fortunes were quite different when they co-starred as a down on her luck single mom and an upper middle class professor, respectively, in last year’s Good People were each wonderful supporting cast members, as wives Lady Bird Johnson and Coretta Scott King. Abercrumbie also gives a remarkable performance in the second act as Fanni Lou Hamer, a woman beaten and abused in her efforts to register to vote, underscoring the heart and soul of the production’s focus on the arduous path to freedom.
The Asolo Repertory is to be commended for once again faithfully keeping our community focused on the importance of civil rights to the American character, it’s five-year theme for all the productions. For tickets, go to www.asolorep.org