The Great Society

The Great Society tracks the decline of Lyndon B. Johnson's popularity at Lincoln Center Theater.
Is Lincoln Center's portrayal of LBJ's presidency worth your vote?

By Andrew Andrews

Lyndon Baines Johnson’s tumultuous term from 1964 to 1969 is the focus of Robert Schenkkan’s second play about the president. Brian Cox follows in the footsteps of Bryan Cranston, who, in the spring of 2014, played the Commander-in-chief in Schenkkan’s All The Way, which covered LBJ’s first year following the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Concentrating on Johnson’s relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the story depicts LBJ as always stuck between a rock and a hard place, wanting desperately to make great strides in a country that just wasn’t ready to support them. And stymied by budget constraints due largely to his mishandling of Vietnam, the playwright seems to be making the case that LBJ could have accomplished so much more, and maintained his popularity, if only he’d cut his losses early in the conflict.

Attended largely by an audience old enough to remember the events of Johnson’s presidency as they unfolded, the script depicts the man as one of witty one-liners, with a knack for calling press conferences where he convinced his political adversaries to publicly agree to schemes that they were none-too-happy to support.

With Grantham Coleman as Dr. King, The Great Society is almost as much about MLK’s own struggles—not only with LBJ’s pace of action, but within his camp, and against the influences of the Black Power movement that conflicted with his philosophy of non-violent demonstration.

Limited Time Offer!

Read unlimited reviews FREE for the next 6 months if you subscribe right now with offer code BANNER19. Save $59! Subscribe Now!

Sorry to interrupt…

Only subscribers can access our full review of The Great Society. Please sign-in or subscribe now to continue. A basic subscription is free, and allows you to read and/or watch a complete review up to 5 times every month!

Andrew Andrews attended The Great Society at Vivian Beaumont Theater in New York on Friday, September 13, 2019 @ 8:00pm to write this review.

† Based on $9.95/month regular subscription cost.