In “Broken Sound,” a new play written by award-winning playwright Sally Mann and directed by acclaimed director Rob Reiner, Doug Ebenstein plays the title role of President John F. Kennedy. Early in his term, Kennedy was plagued by crises with nuclear war and Vietnam. At first, his job performance ratings are low, but after the crisis he rises to a new level as he takes his new direction for the administration.
Based on the true events that happened during the Kennedy Administration, this play is a powerful account of how ordinary people effected change. The drama unfolds around the White House, especially in the weeks surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis. The tempo of the play slowly builds as the crisis grows and reaches a crescendo near the end when news of President Kennedy’s death is announced. Although the play does not have a memorable climax, the tempo picks up near the end as Jackie Kennedy (Debra Messing) makes her way into the White House to deliver her news. The shaken widow is escorted off by aide Ellen Mitchell (Daryl Hannah), but soon they learn of her pregnancy.
Although the pregnancy complicates matters and causes Jackie’s personal life to suffer as well, she presses on. Meanwhile, Martin Luther King (Kevin Pollack) becomes the chief executive officer of the civil rights organization MLK; his first task is to calm the angry crowd at the University of Alabama where he is to give a major speech. Martin has other things on his mind, such as trying to find a cure for his wife’s terminal cancer, while Bobby Kennedy (Peter Morgan) moves into the family home to ensure that Jackie has a comfortable home in the capital.
Eventually, Jackie finds herself at odds with her mother over the marriage. Meanwhile, Martin suffers a heart attack and collapses at the wheel of his plane. As Jackie and Martin get more suspicious of each other, they begin to doubt the wisdom of their decisions. At a crucial point in the play, they both admit to each other that they want to see each other again. But will they ever be able to reconcile?
Douglas Ebenstein is one of those playwriting superstars who can make almost any story exciting. His ability to draw audience members into his characters seems almost magical. Ebenstein’s use of dialogue, in particular the unexpected punch lines, adds much to the drama of this final scene. The punch lines, of course, are what make the play so memorable.
In terms of style, Broken Sound Parkway belongs to the same category asleys, Coffences, Macclesfield, and similar plays. It has the same mix of tragedy, comedy, emotional drama, and romance. It is entertaining, thought-provoking, and full of surprises – just like the play it was based on.
Douglas Ebenstein, Broken Sound Parkway also features David Hyde Pierce as Dr. Arthur Holmwood. Pierce has done work as an onscreen personality in such films as Love Actually, and The Perfect Score. He does a good job of reprising his role as a caring, sensitive doctor who wants to help people. In addition, he also provides a bit of history about the town of Broken Sound and its primary character, Arthur Holmwood. It helps take us back to the time when these people were still living their lives, and remember what was happening in them.
I enjoyed this last scene, and felt for the couple at the end of their relationship. Their last night together was sweet, but their future was certainly not clear. Their love may be still there – just waiting for the right moment to come together. Maybe it will be the right time, or maybe it will never happen. But as they say, “all things considered, it’s better to have been late than never.”