Sunday, October 10, 2021

Review of Thirteen Days at City Lit

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Thirteen Days. It was by Robert F. Kennedy, adapted and directed by Brian Pastor. The play is centered on the Cuban Missile Crisis from the perspective of Robert Kennedy (Kat Evans) as he helped his brother John F. Kennedy (Cameron Feagin) and other major players in the U.S. government in the early 1960s. It is about determination, diplomacy, and family.

I really enjoyed the concept for this show: assigning the roles of male U.S. government officials to female-identifying actors. Having this dynamic is intriguing, however I was confused as to why they chose this script to make that choice. The relationships and context of the Cuban Missile Crisis do not seem to have been affected predominantly by gender. If it had been about women’s rights, like abortion rights or women’s suffrage, the concept could have been more effective. I feel as if it may have been more effective to change the gender presentation of one or all but one of the characters to amplify the significance of gender norms at the time. I feel like it could also have made a more relevant statement to have the cast play these characters as women instead of putting on male personas mimicking the original genders of the characters. The choice to have female-identifying actors didn’t feel like it changed the narrative of the Cuban Missile Crisis, so it felt somewhat arbitrary to me. 

I enjoyed the moments of humor within the show, especially in the scene at the UN. In this scene, Valerian Zorin (Maggie Cain), the Soviet Ambassador, had a translation earpiece that helped him understand the speech given by Adlai Stevenson (Anne Wrider). As Stevenson spoke, Zorin grew more agitated. But before he would speak there would be a dramatic and humorous pause while he waited for the end of the translation. This also made Stevenson’s quips get very delayed laughs from the delegates, the loudest and most mocking of course being from Zorin. I loved the gradual build in this scene. It was very well thought out, and the actors had great comedic timing.

I think this show has real educational value. It is much more entertaining than the textbook in which I learned about this event during my freshman year. It really amplified the significance of the relationships in the Cabinet, especially between the Kennedy brothers. This relationship is made more poignant by the last moment of the show which slyly references the fact that both of them will be assassinated in the near future. JFK mentions Lincoln’s facing a similar difficult crisis and going to the theater to celebrate, which brings a very clear connection to the audience's mind, since both presidents were assassinated.

People who would like this show are people who like new approaches to historical theater, eerie foreshadowing, and loud Russian laughs. I think this is a very interesting concept for a show that needs some fine tuning. There were some strong performances and dramatic plot points. It is a very engaging way to revisit this historic event.

Photos: Steve Graue

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