There’s no shortage of great Shakespearean characters on stage at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Right now you can see the hunchbacked king, Richard III, or Prospero and Caliban from The Tempest. But you can also see one of the greatest political geniuses in American history. Lyndon Baines Johnson was a story-teller and an arm-twister, a flatterer and a warrior, a flirt and a bully. In other words, he was made for the stage.
The play All the Way focused on the time between LBJ becoming president in 1963 after John F. Kennedy’s assassination and his reelection in 1964. It was commissioned by the festival and premiered here two years ago. Just last month, a Broadway production of All the Way won a Tony award for best play, and Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston was named best actor for his portrayal of the president. Now OSF and Seattle Repertory Theater have produced a sequel. The Great Society telescopes four tumultuous years of U.S. history: 1965 to 1968. It was a time of riots and assassinations, when the metastasizing war in Vietnam largely derailed Johnson’s ambitious domestic agenda. As its playwright, Robert Schenkkan has said, the first play was a drama. The follow-up is a tragedy.