a.k.a. "The Oscar Messenger"

Three Hours of a Great Actor in a Bad Play Is Too Much Even for Bryan Cranston!

Yes, even a great, much-lauded actor like Bryan Cranston can not stop the hands of time. The time being three hours EVERY NIGHT, EIGHT TIMES A WEEK. And if you think this sentence is too long, just try sitting through the interminable “All the Way”play about LBJ. On Broadway, yet.

It’s length defeats even the great Cranston. Which is a shame. But it won’t stop the Tony Voters and the Voters of other awards-giving groups from once again showering him with even more accolades come awards time. which is coming up fast.Fast. Something “All the Way” is definitely not.

The words “Degree of Difficulty” keep coming to mind. And Cranston, the great hammy actor that he is, has been tempted down this LOOOOONG road to glory by a seemingly great role that is perfect for him, that of the late Lyndon Baines Johnson, the controversial former president.

LBJ was a reviled figure of my youth. You just can’t disassociate him from the Viet-Nam war. But this play does. Playwright Robert Schenkkan has the colossal NERVE to make Viet-Nam merely a passing reference IN A THREE HOUR PLAY.

“All the Way” takes the difficult route of trying to white-wash LBJ’s much tarnished memory, which is a very hard road to hoe, for those of us who lived through Viet-Nam. (I was drafted, but was then classified 4F when I told the army recruiters that I was Gay.)

So for the entire length of the execrable first act, I really had to struggle with what point they were trying to make. LBJ was a sympathetic, even heroic figure? Oh, really? Well, why?

As “All the Way” GRINDS on and on with Cranston mugging like a Muppet and screaming to the point of shouting, I thought he was going to lose his famous gravely voice. Talk about chewing the scenery!I was surprised there was any left by the end of the first act. I wanted to leave at the intermission.

But some thing made me stay. I think it was Brandon J. Dirden as the soon-to-be assassinated Civil Rights leader, Martin Luther King. I think BOTH these actors will win the Tony for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor respectively, in spite of the play their stuck in.

And as Dirden’s part as King grew in importance in the play, “All the Way” became more watchable, and LBJ more sympathetic, because it FINALLY got to what was really on its mind all along, Civil Rights. And I had no idea that LBJ played such an important role in passing the laws that were to implement the Civil Right legislation that were to give legitimacy to the growing and growing Civil Rights movement of the ’60s. (I was in grammar school and high school when all this was happening.)

And then in Act Two much to my great surprise, Schnenkkan’s wobbly play came together, as so did Cranston’s performance, and from then on I liked it.

But oh what you had to suffer through to get to that point of enlightenment!

It’s like it’s trying to be a Lincoln 2.0 which is kinda of a dubious distinction to say the least. In face, in its’ legislative longeurs and dry-as-dust history lesson presentation, it is perhaps even duller than that (also three hour) Oscar-losing movie.

AH! But you say, “Daniel Day Lewis won the Oscar for Best Actor for playing Lincoln!” And I would say that “All the Way” reveals that Bryan Cranston has a Daniel Day Lewis-complex. As in envy. Cranston wants to get an Oscar for this. You read it here first.

“All the Way” would work MUCH better and be MUCH shorter, too, as a feature film. And if it ever made that great sea change, Cranston, if he stayed with it, would be very likely an Oscar candidate. But it would need a much better director than the clumsy , crowded stagings of Bill Rauch.

I suppose miracles CAN happen. And Broadway is all about stars. And so while “All the Way” may make the ride all the way through the Tonys in June. I don’t see it lasting much after that. And if Cranston has film commitments and has to leave the show, well, it will close.

Ladies and gentle-persons, I rest my case. “All the Way” is like root canal for even the most devoted Bryan Cranston fans, of which I was one. Once. And now, since he subjected me to this excruciating experience. I wonder…

A visit to the dentist would be more pleasant… IOW, see your dentist before you see this play.


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