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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Bryan Cranston stars as Lyndon B. Johnson in ‘All the Way’

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Bryan Cranston performing as Lyndon B. Johnson

Bryan Cranston knocks it out of the park as Lyndon B. Johnson in the American Repertory Theater production of “All the Way,” playing at the Loeb Drama Center through Oct. 12. The three-hour play, written by Robert Schenkkan and directed by Bill Rauch, is sold out completely with the exception of standing-room tickets.
Best known for portraying Walter White on the critically-acclaimed TV drama “Breaking Bad,” Cranston is undoubtedly the reason for a considerable number of ticket sales, as the Emmy Award-winning AMC series is coming to an end on Sept. 29.
In “All the Way,” Cranston succeeds in taking on an entirely new character, completely separate from his Heisenberg persona. He demonstrates his limitless versatility by disappearing into the role of LBJ with equal parts humor and intensity.
“All the Way” captures a landmark moment in history as LBJ is catapulted into office after the assassination of President Kennedy. The play follows the charismatic leader in his quest for political power, as well as Martin Luther King Jr., played by Brandon J. Dirden, in his fight against racist southern legislators.
With cast members including Michael McKean as J. Edger Hoover, Reed Birney as Hubert Humphrey, and Betsy Aidem as Lady Bird Johnson, each actor encapsulates the essence of their character convincingly. As the action unfolds onstage, they watch the challenges and triumphs of the 1964 election from the sidelines like eyewitnesses.
“Nothing comes free,” says Cranston toward the beginning of the production. LBJ is well-aware of this fact, after suddenly finding himself caught in the midst of the struggle to get a Civil Rights bill passed while simultaneously – and desperately – seeking reelection.
The audience of “All the Way” is given a personal look at some of the prominent political decisions that helped to shape our country and its history, as well as an even closer look at one of our most controversial presidents. LBJ is depicted not only as a manipulative politician full of self-pity, but as an ambitious man deeply conflicted between increasing his own power and behaving morally.
“All the Way” succeeds tremendously at bringing both drama and laughter to LBJ’s first year in office.