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Studio Theatre – Stage 4
Remaining Performances: Sunday, July 21, 8:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 24, 7:00 p.m. Thursday, July 25, 8:45 p.m.
They say: “Rediscover the true American Dream during this intimate evening with Bobby Kennedy. A historically accurate solo performance about the final four years of RFK’s life, featuring music and footage from the era. Meet the man destined to be president.”
Lindsey’s Take: RFK explores the tragic fairytale of the Kennedy family through Bobby’s eyes and archival footage, woven together to create a wonderfully memorable fantasia. Russ Widdall brings RFK’s struggles to balance family ties and political pressures to life with personal and poignant stories—-an amazing performance made even more impressive by the fact it’s basically a monologue.
America’s fascination with the Kennedys, their public lives and public deaths, is apparent from the film reels that play throughout the show. News clips, public appearances, speeches and cheering crowds play behind Widdall as he performs. Audio clips add cheers and boos or children running wild around the house, providing a depth to each scene without taking away from the performance itself. Songs from The Beatles, Janis Joplin, and Bob Dylan play over scene changes, counting down the tumultuous years between the 1963 death of President John F. Kennedy at the beginning of the show and RFK’s own assassination.
Some of the most powerful scenes aren’t chronological, however, but flashbacks in Bobby’s life. There are private family moments pulled from biographies, where Widdall responds to his wife, children, or brothers as if they stood right in front of him—-when he’s really just talking to ghosts. His 90-minute monologue transitions seamlessly between reminiscing about family stories, inner thoughts on his nervousness in politics, filming campaign ads for his Senate race or giving speeches around the world.
The blend of family stories and RFK’s political triumphs and failures echo the tug-of-war they seemed to play in his life. His political ups-and-downs and reticence to run for office speak to the power of the Kennedy Machine — yet his voice breaks at the thought of being called “President” Kennedy. He also steps into the roles of political adversaries with ease, adding the characters of J. Edgar Hoover, Eugene McCarthy, President Lyndon Baines Johnson and others to critical scenes with a simple change in stature and tone.
The recurring theme of tragedy is relieved by charming and funny family anecdotes and political observations. A sparse set and simple costume changes lend themselves to Widdall’s polished yet honest performance, leaving the focus on the rich use of media and Bobby himself.
This year’s Capital Fringe happens to be the first time New City Stage has left their home city of Philadelphia, where RFK debuted last year to critical acclaim. The show will return to Philly this Fall.
See it if: You want to spend the last week of Fringe with some guaranteed quality performances, in an air conditioned venue.
Skip it if: You would prefer to drive to Philly and see it there.
Read Alexis Hauk’s preview of RFK here.