It’s 1974 in New York, and we’re in a Lower East Side dive. The lights are low, music is playing on the jukebox, and everyone seems to have had one too many. In Kennedy’s Children, Robert Patrick’s expansive five-character monologued play about life lessons learned in the 1960’s. How appropriate that the Hi-Ho Lounge is the setting for this intimate piece. Director Michael Martin’s environmental staging uses the booths, barstools, tables and even the bathrooms of the Hi-Ho as his scenery – by breaking the fourth wall and encompassing the audience into the monologues, we can sit next to the characters, literally, and inhabit their world.
There’s Sparger, played by Michael Aaron Santos, a flamboyant performer witnessing the dawn of the Off-Off Broadway Theatre movement. Santos, who is long and lanky, is not whom I pictured would play this part, but he is completely convincing in a somewhat effortless performance. His part is one of the most difficult, as it is easy to fall into stereotypical fey-ness, but Santos’ take on Sparger is humorous and full of pathos, avoiding the clichés of gay characters, as we watch him drink after drink recount the strange tales of his theatre/café life.
Kathryn Talbot plays Wanda, a hard-drinking social worker recounting her memories of the Kennedy assassination. She delivers the material well, but I thought that her character has the weakest monologues in the piece. Maybe because we’ve been there before, with so much media saturation of the Kennedy assassination. What may have been fresh in 1975 when this play opened on Broadway now seems passé and a little stale. But mind you, Talbot delivers it with confidence and good pacing, so it is never dull.
As Rona, a free-thinking social activist, we witness race riots, marches, drug experimentation and the liberation of the 1960s through Carrie Anne Rose’s excellent performance. She and Santos have their fare share of the evening’s best monologues. Paul Atreides delves into the psychological drama of a mad Vietnam soldier Mark, tired of the war and falling apart at the seams, mentally, in a chilling performance. And Bridget Erin is Carla, a young chorine obsessed with Marilyn Monroe and her rise to stardom. Carla recognizes that millions of girls share the same dream, as broken as it is.
Kennedy’s Children runs at an intermissionless 90 minutes, but the monologues never become rout recitation. Kudos to Martin and his cast for really digging deep into these characters, exploring the fragility of the American Dream after Kennedy’s assassination.
Four Humours presents Kennedy’s Children
at the Hi-Ho Lounge
Written by Robert Patrick
Directed by Michael Martin
with Kathryn Talbot, Michael Aaron Santos, Carrie Anne Rose, Paul Atreides, Bridget Erin