The Contra Costa Civic Theater unleashes its raw, jaw-dropping production – – “All The Way”

The Contra Costa Civic Theater in El Cerrito, has, in my opinion, just hit another high mark with its East Bay premier of Robert Schenkkan’s award-winning play, All the Way. Robert Schenkkan is the author of 10 full-length plays and has written numerous one act plays as well. In 1992 he won the Pulitzer Prize for drama for his play, the Kentucky Cycle, and his play All the Way won the 2014 Tony award for best play. I reviewed this stellar production this past week and am prepared to declare this play, which is superbly directed by artistic director Marilyn Langbehn, as one of the best plays available to audiences in the East Bay at this time.

Schenkkan himself, described his award-winning play, All the Way, as a play about “the morality of politics and power!” Schenkkan’s tightly researched work is a raw, jaw-dropping political expose of the back-room politics prevalent and perhaps even necessary during the Civil Rights campaign in 1963 and 1964. The title of this play was extracted from Lyndon Johnson’s campaign slogan, “All the Way with LBJ”. This story is rapid paced and action packed; an expose of the political dealing and maneuvering that took place, for the most-part hidden from public view and behind closed doors.

In 1964, following Lyndon B. Johnson’s accidental ascension to the office of the presidency, one of the most important political battles in American history, took place over the next 11 months. This play demonstrates in superb fashion the tumultuous battle that was fought primarily out of public view before the nation and its new president could legislate the Civil Rights Act of 1964. A superlative cast of 21 actors rips away the political camouflage that actually took place at that time. Lyndon Johnson (powerfully portrayed by John Hale), and his political supporters and adversaries of that time, come colorfully and fully to life, exposing the good, the bad, and the very ugly in this battle seeking to establish equality for all Americans. It is almost impossible and probably inappropriate to celebrate key players in this production because of the excellent acting by the entire cast. However, two days after becoming immersed this terrific production, I am still seeing in my mind’s eye the powerful, articulate, and persuasive arguments made by actor Khary Moye in his portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I still feel the poignant and heartfelt emotion of Sen. Hubert Humphrey (David Bogdonoff) pleading for reason and understanding between the president and his black constituents demanding their right to be heard at the Democratic convention. The racial slurs and innuendos expressed Gov. George Wallace (Michael Sally), and other southern politicians still stir my blood. So many actors delivered so many great lines and powerful points of our historical past. Probably most important is the skilled work of director Marilyn Langbehn who sought out and carefully prepared each actor with comprehensive background information on each politician in this revealing story.

All the Way is in my opinion an absolute “MUST SEE” production before it closes on the 5th of May. Tickets for All the Way are more than reasonable for this production, ranging between $11 and $32 each. Tickets may be purchased online at www.ccct.org or by phone at (510) 524-9012. Performances are on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm, and Sundays at 2 pm. The very comfortable Theater is located at 951 Pomona Avenue (at corner of Moeser Lane) in El Cerrito. There are very raw moments, provocative interactions and language that may well uncomfortably remind us of our current political atmosphere. However, I believe there is great value in this story of social and political upheaval and triumph and the dark alleys we must often travel to accomplish social change.

About the Author

Charles JarrettTheater reviewer for the Rossmoor News for 29 years, a professional theatrical photographer (Megaline Photographic Design - Alamo, CA) and news paper reporter for 15 years, currently with the Orinda News as a staff photographer and reporter.View all posts by Charles Jarrett →