Few families have commanded more public fascination or newsprint than the Kennedy clan. In his engaging character study, Brian Lee Franklin constructs a compelling portrait of the "other son," Robert Francis Fitzgerald, and the historical milieu that shaped him. The play opens at a 1958 subcommittee hearing with "Bobbie" (Franklin) and Senator John McClellan (William Stone Mahoney) aggressively interrogating Teamster boss Jimmy Hoffa (R.D. Call, in a convincing turn) about Hoffa's mob connections. From the outset, Franklin creates a profoundly flawed and conflicted image of Kennedy, one that is steadily and skillfully nuanced throughout this production. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in his relationship with his father, Joe, (Steve Mendillo), whose vaulting ambition contoured the lives of all of his sons, and whose approval of "good Bobby" was desperately sought by RFK but, according to Franklin's play, never fully realized. We follow RFK's rise to national prominence, his battles during the civil rights era as U.S. Attorney General, his involvement in his brother John's presidential campaign (and more than a few unsavory deeds during that time), the aftermath of JFK's assassination, and Bobby's gradual ascension in the Democratic Party, resulting in his becoming its presidential nominee in 1968. The script is well written, and Franklin can be forgiven for some questionable Oliver Stone moments involving a shadowy CIA agent (Jim Metzler). The performances are uniformly high caliber under Pierson Blaetz's fine direction. Greenway Court Theatre, 544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m., Sun., 4 p.m., through Nov. 23. (323) 655-7679.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m.; Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 4 p.m. Starts: Oct. 17. Continues through Feb. 1, 2008