Review: 'Looking Over the President's Shoulder' | Rock Candy

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Review: 'Looking Over the President's Shoulder'

Posted By on Wed, Feb 4, 2009 at 2:43 PM

unknown.jpg


In a collaboration that’s just as winning as it’s been in the past, director Gilbert McCauley (“Fences,” “The Piano Lesson”) and actor Lawrence Hamilton have teamed to bring James Still’s one-man show to the Rep. The play follows Alonzo Fields, the White House’s first African-American chief butler, as he reminisces about his 21 years in the White House from a bus bench across the street after his last day on the job.

Hamilton, always eloquent and erect as vocalist, fills the role of Fields with an easy grace. In monologues, he’s reflective about his choices of paths taken and not. In anecdotes about presidents and first families and dignitaries, he’s a convincing mimic, though no matter how famous the character (Winston Churchill, Marian Anderson and Errol Flynn make appearances) it’s always Fields’ motivations and insights that we care about most. Throughout, the production achieves a conversational intimacy with the audience, as if Fields is talking directly to them.

Hamilton’s not completely alone onstage. Set designer Mike Nichols and production designer Matthew Webb support him with two picture-framed large video screens, which project images and video of people and places Fields recalls, which serves as a huge help to those who slept through Presidential History and, more importantly, livens up the spare stage.

Fields reminiscences proceed, as conversation is wont to do, in scattered, but mostly linear fashion. His biography is compelling stuff. Born at the turn of the century to a working family in an all-African-American community in southern Indiana, he distinguished himself early as a musician. In 1925, he moved to Boston to attend the New England Conservatory of Music (before he moved away, he was part of a group that awarded a scholarship to a young Marian Anderson). To pay for his tuition, he took and kept a job as a butler for Dr. Samuel Stratton, the president of M.I.T, until Stratton died suddenly several years later. While in the Stratton house, Fields had served Mrs. Herbert Hoover, who, upon hearing about Stratton’s death, invited Fields to join the White House staff. That meant leaving his music studies, but in the Depression and with a wife and a child, Fields accepted, thinking, he says in the play, he’d only be there a matter of months.

The tension of that expectation and dream of music lends the play a special poignancy, particularly when Fields recalls standing outside the East Room during the Roosevelt administration to catch Marian Robinson singing. It’s a personal story about thriving within what lives gives us, and, too, of course, it’s a fascinating window into the White House. Fields offers presidential tidbits, on Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower, that even the most astute student of the presidency will appreciate or, at the least, be amused by.

I get that the Rep has to do the broad comedies and name musicals to stay afloat, but man, if seeing something like “Looking Over the President’s Shoulder” doesn’t make you wish the theater could do eight more of these every season. It’s such a smart choice — a new (or at least new-ish) play that’s topical (fortuitously, since it was surely booked long before Obama’s ascension was inevitable) and starring one Arkansas’s favorite sons.

Go see it.

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Lindsey Millar

  • The Hate Week Edition

    White supremacy and Donald Trump, Confederate statutes, the state’s new execution plan, a blow to Planned Parenthood in Arkansas, the LRPD and the homeless — all covered on this week's edition.
    • Aug 18, 2017
  • Werner Herzog coming to Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

    The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has scored a coup, landing Werner Herzog, one of the most influential and surely the most interesting documentary filmmakers ever for its upcoming festival, Oct. 6-15.
    • Aug 18, 2017
  • The Arkansas Cinema Society's must-see 'Premiere'

    The new outfit kicks off with Adam Driver "A Ghost Story" and more.
    • Aug 17, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

Most Shared

  • Take yourself there: Mavis Staples coming to LR for Central High performance

    Gospel and R&B singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples, who has been inspiring fans with gospel-inflected freedom songs like "I'll Take You There" and "March Up Freedom's Highway" and the poignant "Oh What a Feeling" will come to Little Rock for the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the desegregation of Central High.
  • Klan's president

    Everything that Donald Trump does — make that everything that he says — is calculated to thrill his lustiest disciples. But he is discovering that what was brilliant for a politician is a miscalculation for a president, because it deepens the chasm between him and most Americans.
  • On Charlottesville

    Watching the Charlottesville spectacle from halfway across the country, I confess that my first instinct was to raillery. Vanilla ISIS, somebody called this mob of would-be Nazis. A parade of love-deprived nerds marching bravely out of their parents' basements carrying tiki torches from Home Depot.

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: New music from The Uh Huhs, Country Florist, The Wandering Lake, Osyrus Bolly and more

    • http://emcmee.rebelmouse.com/shrk-nql-fsh-jumperads-com-2134068521.html http://emcmee.rebelmouse.com/hl-tbhth-n-shrk-tnzyf-khznt-bjd-2134111069.html http://emcmee.rebelmouse.com/shrk-nql-fsh-bjd-khbr-f-lnql-2133630249.html http://emcmee.rebelmouse.com/shrk-nql-fsh-bldmm-rkhys-lshrq-lwst-2134023448.html http://emcmee.rebelmouse.com/shrk-nql-fsh-bmk-ml-mhr-2133632523.html http://emcmee.rebelmouse.com/shrk-nql-thth-blryd-shrkt-mtkhss-2133870123.html http://emcmee.rebelmouse.com/shrkt-mkfh-lhshrt-2142999608.html https://medium.com/@naklafshdmam/%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%B8%D9%8A%D9%81-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%81-jumperads-com-8cd3a4012baa https://medium.com/@naklafshdmam/%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AE%D8%B7%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D9%89-%D8%AA%D9%82%D9%88%D9%85-%D8%A8%D9%87%D8%A7-%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A9-%D9%86%D9%82%D9%84-%D8%B9%D9%81%D8%B4-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AF%D9%8A%D9%86%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86%D9%88%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D9%88%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%B2-%D8%AA%D9%84%D9%83-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AE%D8%B1%D9%8A-35d701c66f1#.ohj8a3kxf https://medium.com/@naklafshdmam/%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%B8%D9%8A%D9%81-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%81-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%AD%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%81-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%83%D8%A7%D9%85%D9%84-f17c750268bd https://medium.com/@naklafshdmam/%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A9-%D9%86%D9%82%D9%84-%D8%B9%D9%81%D8%B4-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%86%D8%B7%D9%82%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AC%D9%86%D9%88%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A9-3a9bb4b239d3#.mtsbbhvg8 https://medium.com/@naklafshdmam/%D9%87%D9%84-%D8%AA%D8%A8%D8%AD%D8%AB-%D8%B9%D9%86-%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D9%86%D8%B8%D9%8A%D9%81-%D8%AE%D8%B2%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D8%A8%D8%AC%D8%AF%D8%A9-b9c06e4c540a https://medium.com/@naklafshdmam/%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A9-%D9%86%D9%82%D9%84-%D8%B9%D9%81%D8%B4-%D8%A8%D8%AC%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B1-%D9%85%D9%86%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%B3%D8%A9-1ff182c780f8#.6d01cs9m9 https://medium.com/@naklafshdmam/%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A9-%D9%86%D9%82%D9%84-%D8%B9%D9%81%D8%B4-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AF%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%82-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D9%88%D8%B3%D8%B7-9be17b95b504#.b3bte5ar5 https://medium.com/@naklafshdmam/%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A9-%D9%86%D9%82%D9%84-%D8%B9%D9%81%D8%B4-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%B7%D8%A7%D8%A6%D9%81-%D8%A7%D9%81%D8%B6%D9%84-%D8%A7%D8%B3%D8%B9%D8%A7%D8%B1-82c2577545f0#.rkhlg59sh…

    • on August 17, 2017
  • Re: New music from The Uh Huhs, Country Florist, The Wandering Lake, Osyrus Bolly and more

    • http://www.domyate.com/2015/08/30/furniture-transport-company-in-almadinah http://www.domyate.com/2016/06/05/transfer-furniture-medina-almonawara http://www.domyate.com/2016/06/05/transfer-furniture-mecca http://www.domyate.com/2016/06/05/transfer-furniture-riyadh http://www.domyate.com/2016/06/05/transfer-furniture-jeddah http://www.domyate.com/2016/06/05/transfer-furniture-taif http://www.domyate.com/2016/06/05/transfer-furniture-yanbu http://www.domyate.com/2016/07/02/transfer-furniture-dammam http://www.domyate.com/2017/08/10/movers-company-mecca-naql/ http://www.domyate.com…

    • on August 17, 2017
  • Re: New music from The Uh Huhs, Country Florist, The Wandering Lake, Osyrus Bolly and more

    • http://abyath.net/
      http://abyath.net/news/details/transfere-furniture-khobar-dammam-company.html
      http://abyath.net/news/details/company-transfere-furniture-dammam-2017.html
      http://abyath.net/news/details/furniture-transfere-dammam-now.html
      http://abyath.net/news/details/dammam-all-company-transfere-furniture.html

    • on August 17, 2017

Blogroll

 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation