On the night of April 4, 1968 Bobby Kennedy was scheduled to give a campaign speech in Indianapolis. Instead, he announced the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. to a stunned crowd. In this world premier play by James Still the audience sees the events of that night unfold through the eyes of one small family.
At the heart of the play is a married couple, John Henry and Addie, transplants from Kentucky, raising their two kids who are Hoosiers by birth. I loved their interactions. From the first moment they made you feel as though they were a family you knew, bickering and teasing in equal measures. Tracy N. Bonner's performance as Addie was particularly moving. She has a complexity, as a mother, wife, neighbor, and a woman, and she conveyed that beautifully.
The generational difference of our characters is one of the most interesting parts of the play. This heartbreaking news, along with the impact of the Vietnam war and the racial struggles the country is facing all elicit different reactions depending on the characters' point of view. A teenager, a young girl, an elderly woman, an adult couple, each one has their own experiences and opinions through which they filter the news.
Christina D. Harper plays Geneva, the couple's earnest 16-year-old daughter. She is passionate and confident in a way that only the young can be, while they are still naive and have yet to be disappointed by the world. It is an age where you think no one understands you and only you truly know what's right.
The production uses audio from Kennedy's actual speech, a powerful addition to the show. It also incorporates frequent references to Indianapolis , making this a meanful play for any Hoosier to see. Russell Metheny's set design incorporates a backdrop of neighborhood homes in a beautiful way. With telephone wires and street lights, he reminds us that the family is part of a neighborhood and each family on the street will be coping with the tragic news that night.
This historic moment in Indiana's history was a shared experience throughout our nation. There have been few notable ones in the past century; Pearl Harbor, the Challenger explosion, 9/11, each one of which stopped people in their tracts and made them reflect. They are joined together for a brief moment, grieving as one, and James Still captures the tense spirit of that night.
Don't Miss the Show
The Indiana Repertory Theatre is located at 140 W. Washington St., Indianapolis, one-half block west of the Circle Center Mall between northbound Illinois St. and southbound Capitol Ave. "April 4, 1968" runs until Nov. 15 on IRT's Upperstage. Times for performances can be found at www.irtlive.com or by calling the IRT box office at (317) 635-5252. To purchase tickets call (317) 635-5252 or order online at www.irtlive.com
Photos courtesy of the IRT