Reviewed by Michael Edwards
Theater West and the New Los Angeles Repertory Theatre's production of "Eisenhower: This Piece of Ground," is a well crafted, well researched and developed play, written by Richard Hellesen. Now at the Hudson Mainstage, this production is masterfully delivered by director Peter Ellenstein and performed to perfection by true actor journeyman and familiar face of screen and television, Tony Award winning actor John Rubenstein playing the title and only character, Dwight D Eisenhower.
At home on his Pennsylvania ranch house in 1961, the play opens with former President Dwight D Eisenhower on the phone with his lawyer, perturbed about a recent New York Magazine article's relatively low rating of his administration (22nd out of 35). A
fter the call and a quiet moment, he proceeds to ponder his relevance and goes down a deeper rabbit hole than any of us expected re manhood, relevance, duty for duty's sake, or not? We travel through his life on a kind of hero's journey through the mind and heart of man who thinks quite differently than most human beings do today. And it's something to watch. The script by Richard Hellesen is smart, timely, and selfless. Meaning it never seems aware of itself. It moves quickly, shifting from beat to beat with a nice pace, surprising us at times with the unexpected.
Strong actor storytelling work like Mister Rubenstein's always has an extra gear to it. The surface is so well done you think you've seen the show after watching for a while, and then the storyteller starts to peel the real layers. More of a respect for cadence and rhythm than an outright imitation of the man, Mr Rubenstein seems to channel what feels like a real human moment in the life of Former President Dwight D Eisenhower's. His sense of duty; His self-perceived failings; His love of democracy; His sense of fairplay; all of these, portrayed with the simplest, most open heart, at the end reveal a remarkably complex, brilliant performance.
Light and sound design are seamless and supportive of the solo artist. Images on the back screen set the tone nicely more often than not. Set design gave a strong sense of place with a wonderful attention to detail in decorating every piece.
The Hudson MainStage Theatre is at 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. Performances are Friday and Saturday 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. Two additional shows have been added Thursday Dec 15 at 8pm and Saturday Dec 17 at 3pm.