RFK's life is subject of one-man show

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“RFK — A Portrait of Robert Kennedy” revisits four years in the life of a remarkable figure in American history — one who had a lot of press, but perhaps less sympathetic acceptance than his older brother John.

Lights go up in Vintage's compact Bond Trimble Theater in 1964, as a disappointed RFK has just learned that Lyndon Johnson did not chose him to run for vice president in the 1964 election.

Versatile actor James O'Hagan Murphy carries the audience through four years in RFK's life when, saddened by his brother's assassination and frustrated by his nation's involvement in the Vietnam War, he began to shape a future for himself in the “different world” created by LBJ.

Actor, screenwriter, playwright, composer and pianist Jack Holmes wrote this one-person play for himself and won a number of awards for its quality as a performance piece.

Veteran Denver director Terry Dodd, who writes about the relevance of this play in his director's notes, has helped Murphy mold a strong look at an era not so long ago — one with ongoing drama.

In addition to tension with LBJ, RFK as attorney general had ongoing conflict with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and his relentless search for Communists. He describes a disapproving Hoover's arrival in his office one day when it was filled with his children and dogs.

On a more scholarly track, he turned to the Greek playwright Aeschylus on sleepless nights and at other times, quoting: “The first casualty of war is the truth.”

Driven to excel, he ran a successful campaign for the Senate, coached by brother Teddy when he was elected. He continued opposition to the war in Vietnam, horrified by the bombing of entire villages, and was constantly on the move. He campaigned for better conditions for the disadvantaged of all races.

Accounts of travel to Europe, South Africa, South America, talk about the riots in the U.S. and James Meredith's attempt to attend the University of Mississippi, interaction with Martin Luther King and many more references to the period lead one to walk out with a head filled with images and memories.

The selection of segments from speeches and running commentary on events of the day lead us logically to his decision to run for president, a loss in Oregon and win in California — and assassination there in June 1968 — at age 42.

Powerful performance.

If you go

“RFK — A Portrait of Robert Kennedy” plays through Jan. 27 at the Vintage Theatre, 1468 Dayton St., Aurora. Performances: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets: $25 ($20 advance), 303-856-7830, vintagetheatre.com. Ample free parking.

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