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All the Way

”History ain't what it is. It's what some writer wanted it to be." --Will Rogers
In the aftermath of last year's snub of Selma by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Joseph Califano, who served as United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (now Health and Human Services) in the Johnson cabinet, was quick to jump to the defense of his former boss, who was depicted in the movie as trying to prevent Martin Luther King from forcing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to the fore of Congress' and the nation's agenda.

(Left to right) Terence Archie as Reverend Martin Luther King and C. David Johnson as Lyndon Baines Johnson
(L to R) Terence Archie as Reverend Martin Luther King
and C. David Johnson as Lyndon Baines Johnson
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
Much in the same vein as Califano's attempt to spin U.S. history to fit the agenda of those that control the red and blue parties, Robert Schenkkan's All the Way, which covers LBJ's reign from JFK's assassination to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and his election as President, plays fast and loose with various historical events to focus on LBJ's legislative derring-do, while ignoring his prodigious criminal actions. Worse, his crimes are even exalted as "business as usual," or sloughed off on others, e.g., as a legacy that LBJ "inherited" from JFK.

C. David Johnson as Lyndon Baines Johnson
C. David Johnson as Lyndon Baines Johnson
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
In the play, LBJ's initiation of the war in Vietnam comes down like this: We are left to believe that in the middle of a discussion with Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamera enters, explains to LBJ that there is a purported event (the non-existent Gulf of Tonkin incident) that the U.S. is going to use as a premise for the full-blown war in Vietnam. After LBJ gives his go ahead for this fabrication, he complains that he inherited this crisis from his assassinated running mate, while the play ignores that it was LBJ's decisions that escalated the war, time and again.

(Left to right) Jordan Barbour as Reverand Ralph Abernathy and Terence Archies as Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
(L to R) Jordan Barbour as Reverend Ralph Abernathy
and Terence Archies as Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
While the distillation of history for the stage must necessarily trim the scope of events, the sins of omission in Schenkkan's piece tell a great deal about the objectives of those who would make heroes or villains out of historical figures to serve the interests of the .00001%; i.e., the central bankers, who pull the strings of puppet executives charged with carrying out their corporate and governmental strategies. De Vere (William Shake-speare) did the same thing for Elizabeth and the Tudors, and now we see this same strategy as part and parcel of the shows being backed in New York and sent to "the hinterlands." One need look no further than the glorification of Alexander Hamilton (in Hamilton), a traitor who sold the U.S. to the European bankers (whose mercenaries the colonists had just defeated on the battlefield) via the First Bank of the U.S., and the demonization of Andrew Jackson (in Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson), who refused to renew the charter of the Second Bank of the U.S., owned by the same Anglo-European cartel.

(Left to right) C. David Johnson as Lyndon Baines Johnson and Mike Hartman as Rep. Howard
(L to R) C. David Johnson as Lyndon Baines Johnson
and Mike Hartman as Rep. Howard "Judge" Smith
Photo: Adams Visual Communications
Like Hamilton and Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson, and despite the blatant historical transgressions of their books, All the Way's production values are well-crafted, as this three-hour homage to one of our most lawless Presidents (which is saying a lot—see the excellent biography, Master of the Senate)—keeps a brisk and dramatic pace, thanks to director Anthony Powell and a top-notch design team, with an assist from the events from that time (reinforced with projections by Charlie I. Miller), which are too compelling not to draw us into the fray.

C. David Johnson, as the 36th President of the United States, cuts an imposing figure, channeling LBJ's swagger, political savoir faire, and enigmatic emotional swings from king of the hill to defeated child. Terence Archie, as the Reverand Martin Luther King, Jr., bowls us over with his uncanny channeling of the master orator's dialect, cadence, and demeanor.

Mike Hartman as Sen. Everett Dirksen
Mike Hartman
as Sen. Everett Dirksen
Photo: Adams
Visual Communications
Everyone else in the ensemble plays multiple roles, most of which characterize some of the biggest names of the day: Philip Pleasants, as Senator Richard Russell, a major Southern powerbroker, is sublime; Kathleen McCall is a spirited and clever Lady Bird Johnson; Lawrence Curry channels the fire of Stokely Carmichael, who butts heads with Charles E. Wallace's imperious Roy Wilkens. Steve Brady is chilling as J. Edgar Hoover.

The list of fine performances goes on and on: Mike Hartman as Representative Howard "Judge" Smith; James Newcomb as Senator Hubert Humphrey; Jordan Barbour as Reverand Ralph Abernathy; Sam Gregory as Senator Mike Mansfield; Cajardo Lindsey as Bob Moses; Jeffrey Roark as Walter Jenkins; Todd Cerveris as Governor George Wallace; Tracey Conyer Lee as Coretta Scott King; Jessica Robblee as Muriel Humphrey; Geoffrey Kent as Deke Deloach; Paul DeBoy as Robert McNamara; and Erin Willis as Ensemble.

With all its flawed spin, All the Way is nevertheless timely in its reminder regarding those (past and would-be Presidents) who would distract us from their role in the endless wars conducted on behalf of the same folks who brought us Vietnam, for the purposes of power, profit, population reduction ("reducing the surplus population," as Dickens' Scrooge put it), and propaganda.

The Denver Center Theatre Company's presentation of All the Way, by Robert Schenkkan runs through February 28th. For tickets: call 303-893-4100 or order online at http://www.denvercenter.org.

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