1968: The Year That Rocked the World

Modern day astronaut Garrett Riesman (Randy Schmeling, right) imagines a visit to his parents Robert and Sheila (Eric Knutson and Lindsay Marcy) on the day of the Apollo 8 broadcast when he was just 10 months old.
Scott Pakudaitis

The History Theatre certainly doesn't lack ambition with its latest show, which tackles one of the most tumultuous years in recent history through the lens of seven playwrights. However, the show itself is frightfully uneven, with several segments uncovering nothing particularly fresh or interesting about a well-documented time. Of the work I saw, only three of the segments really dug beneath the surface. We watch the fallout of the murder of Robert Kennedy through the eyes of Rosemary Clooney in one; get a satiric look at the resurrection of Richard Nixon in another (the recent return from the grave of Newt Gingrich makes Dominic Orlando's play all the more intriguing); and in a third see the long-term impact that the Apollo 8 mission had on a future astronaut. Other pieces tackling Vietnam and the Memphis sanitation workers strike—also connected with Martin Luther King's murder—don't add much to the conversation. Kim Hines's "Smith and Carlos" closes a beautiful monologue (delivered by Joe Nathan Thomas) about the impact that two Olympic athletes and their black-power salute had on African Americans with about 10 minutes of completely unwatchable drivel that threatens to derail the whole evening. Actor M. Cochise Anderson was unable to make the performance I saw, so "The Corral," a controversial piece about the American Indian Movement that was nearly dropped from the program following protests, was not performed. All of this was wrapped in a timeline that seemed to spend as much time on pointless 1968 trivia—hey, Star Trek was on!—as illuminating the actual chaos that threatened to envelop the country.

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