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RFK stage play 'Good Bobby' gets an off-Broadway spotlight

October 13, 2009 |  6:00 am


A biographical play about Robert F. Kennedy has gone from a small 99-seat L.A. theater to a major off-Broadway house -- and its creators are aiming even bigger.

"Good Bobby," written by Brian Lee Franklin, played at the Greenway Court Theatre in L.A. in late 2008 and early 2009. On Wednesday, it opens at the 59E59 Theaters in midtown Manhattan. "The Kennedys are a northeast institution, and I think that makes this more of an East Coast play," Franklin said on the phone from New York.

Franklin plays Bobby Kennedy starting in his days as a young politician through his run for the U.S. Senate. The play features 10 characters, including Joseph Kennedy, the clan's imperious paterfamilias.

The New York run came as the result of actor Stephen Mendillo, who plays the senior Kennedy, showing the script to the creative leaders of the 59E59 Theaters. They liked it enough to invite Franklin to Manhattan. No significant changes have been made to the play since its L.A. run, although some of the supporting cast has changed, according to Franklin.

After the death of Edward Kennedy in August, the creative team considered removing a line from the play in which the late senator is unfavorably compared to his brother Bobby. But Franklin ultimately decided against it. "I disagreed. There's a danger of canonizing people just because they passed away," he said.

Franklin said he hopes eventually to take the play to Broadway: "It's an epic character arc. We cover six years in these characters' lives and it's a big subject matter. I think the scope of it is a Broadway show."

He added that he could possibly revise the play after its off-Broadway run, which is scheduled to end Nov. 8.

During the play's L.A. engagement, a Times reviewer wrote that "Good Bobby" is "still finding its dramatic syntax and overall shape.... Franklin writes halfway between screenplay realism and something more theatrical."

-- David Ng

Photo: Brian Lee Franklin and R.D. Call in the L.A. production of "Good Bobby." Credit: Ed Krieger