The Great Society
By Andrew Andrews
Perhaps because they are portraying larger-than-life characters, the cast of seventeen feels more like a team of celebrity impersonators than actors, with the historical figures always looking like they’re on camera, even during private discussions. Comparing archival footage of LBJ to Cox’s performance, I especially notice that the lead seems to exaggerate the president’s mannerisms and tone. And after watching him trip over his lines nearly two dozen times during this performance, I can’t help but think a different actor would better serve in the role.
Stuffed into seats with less room than the Basic Economy cabin on a domestic airline, we also found it difficult to remain comfortable throughout the performance, even given a much-needed intermission to stand and stretch our legs. While the lines of sight at the Beaumont are excellent due to the stadium-style seating, the lack of space is a definite distraction even from the most interesting of shows.
Despite these significant shortcomings, I actually did enjoy this performance. Although I lack the expertise to personally speak to the accuracy of the events, Schenkkan’s script is well-written, and the direction is as tight as you’d expect from a production of this caliber. Coleman’s depiction of Dr. King was especially noteworthy, convincingly portraying the leader’s conviction to peace and cooperation as the only road leading to equality. And since I can’t award partial stars in the five-piece rating system, I’m electing to round up instead of rounding down.
Andrew Andrews attended The Great Society at Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York on Friday, September 13, 2019 @ 8:00pm to write this review.