Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'All the Way' Opens the Rep Season in Its St. Louis Debut

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

'All the Way' Opens the Rep Season in Its St. Louis Debut

Article excerpt

Four years ago, the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis opened the season with a fact-based, Tony-winning new drama, directed by Steven Woolf and starring Brian Dykstra.

Now, history repeats itself.

This season's opening production of "All the Way" like that 2011 production of "Red" glories in the expansive nature of theater itself.

Naturally, theater comes with built-in confines of space and (more or less) of time. But big bold theater the kind that "All the Way" playwright Robert Schenkkan explicitly aims for in this play, which considers American history with a scope theatergoers traditionally associate with Renaissance England accepts those limits. Instead, it expands in mood and texture; often, in subject matter; always, in imagination.

Dykstra packs all those elements into his performance as President Lyndon B. Johnson. "All the Way" focuses on his first year in office, with Act 1 devoted to his masterful political juggling to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Act 2 to his campaign for election in November 1964. The play's title comes from the campaign slogan, "All the Way with LBJ."

A big man, Dykstra dominates the stage physically and also vocally. Determined to accomplish his goals, he coos, he coaxes, he complains (to his wife and closest aide) and he curses; sometimes he roars ferociously at men who are themselves powerful leaders, with principles and tempers of their own.

But Dykstra may be most impressive when he sits in the huge leather easy chair near the back of the stage, sipping a drink and making plans. The ample set, by James Kronzer, suits the scope of the play, with two levels and excellent use of projections to evoke old TV newscasts.

Many details reinforce the era, from the faintly metallic sound of microphones to the tie-clips all the men wear. (The other able designers are Rob Denton for lighting, Matthew Young for projections, Fitz Patton for sound and Dorothy Marshall Englis for costumes. …

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