Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Good Bobby

We saw a strange but somehow miraculous play the other night called Good Bobby. It is an attempt to capture the spirit of Bobby Kennedy in the years before his older brother's assassination. He is portrayed as a reluctant public servant, bitter, coerced, completely unsuited by nature for the job of Attorney General.

Although Bobby can be lighthearted and funny, especially in the company of his mother, he comes across most often as resentful, cut off by his domineering father from those things he would choose for himself if ever got the chance that would lend him that measure of humanity that secretly means so much to him.

It is a strange play, because it presents such a narrow slice of Bobby's life. We hear virtually nothing about his wife Ethel, his many children, even his close relationship with the President. Rather, the focus is on the workaholic who labors tirelessly to serve the purposes of others, and who lost touch with the kind, creative, deeply compassionate boy who was so obviously different from his far more aggressive siblings.

The play works because the man playing Bobby Kennedy is so perfect. He doesn't imitate him exactly, but he captures his halting, hesitant way of talking perfectly so that we think we really are witnessing Bobby's struggles to serve others and to find himself at the same time, an almost impossible challenge. Only when John was gone and his father had suffered a terrible stroke could Bobby recapture that special little boy and re-embody him in that brief but remarkable presidential campaign of 1968. At least that's the premise of the play, that the Bobby Kennedy that some believed was one of the two or three great leaders of the late 1960s was freed finally to be himself for that brief, shining moment only after this terrible dual tragedy had shattered his star-crossed family.

1 comment:

  1. I'll just say thanks for letting us know about this play. From the web I learned that it started out in LA last year at this time and was also well received. I hope I get a chance to see it some time.
    I also discovered that I have a lot of unfinished emotion about Robert Kennedy. His assassination, coming as it did at the end of my jr. year in college and at a time when I believed in and wanted what he had to offer, had a more profound effect on me than I knew until your post got me thinking about him and that time....Had to wait a day to comment.