What would have happened if Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination had failed – but the danger wasn’t over? Lancer and Lace pulls on this historical thread and weaves an interesting yet uneven tale of politics, love, and conspiracy.
Most people have heard one JFK conspiracy or another. “It was the CIA!” “It was the Russians!” And perhaps the most fun: “He’s living with Elvis on a tropical island!”
Playwright James F. Bruns has gone one step further, imagining what might happen as JFK and Jackie wait out the uncertain aftermath of a failed assassination. It’s an interesting idea with the natural appeal of a “bottle episode” – a TV trope with two fan favorite characters in a small space discussing emotional, personal material. It has the potential to be a gripping and emotional look into the Kennedys’ private life through the lens of politics and spectacle. And Bruns has clearly done his homework, peppering the script with insight on the inner workings of the JFK White House and the fractious political scene in the 1960s.
The show starts well enough, with Zak Webb’s buttoned-down Secret Service agent casing the tiny holding room and arguing with a superior over the phone. With a clipped, incredulous tone and skeptical eyebrow, Webb channels the absurdity of the security theater that is baked into so much of American government and politics. Enter JFK and Jackie. Sarah Ulstrup immediately makes her presence known with a spot-on recreation of Jackie’s posh, gauzy Southampton accent and mannerisms. As JFK, Michael Brzezinski exhibits nice chemistry with Ulstrup, but it’s slowly undermined by a lack of urgency or any nod to JFK’s Massachusetts intonation.
Lancer and Lace
closes July 22, 2017
Details and tickets
Throughout the show, it’s sort of a “tale of two performances.” Ulstrup consistently showcases her emotional range and raises the dramatic stakes, growing more alarmed as things go from bad to worse. And then… Brzezinski immediately disarms any urgency with an oddly laid-back performance, like he’s in some kind of trance. I kept thinking “Shouldn’t you be even a little concerned? Perhaps the idea is that JFK’s access to top secret Presidential knowledge has numbed him to the swirl of political intrigue that so alarms Jackie. But I’m skeptical that director David Allen Schmidt would purposely create such a jarring juxtaposition of dramatic and blasé.
Webb provides some nice comic relief in his limited stage time, contrasting Jackie and JFK’s increasing concern with his agent’s dispassionate cool and deadpan humor. Indeed, the production works best as a trio, where the JFK/Jackie pairing doesn’t have to totally carry the show.
Ultimately, Lancer and Lace boasts a solid dramatic concept and a great rendition of Jackie O, all the way down to the pink suit. It just needs a more solid, locked-in JFK to reach its potential.
Lancer and Lace by James F. Bruns . Directed by David Allen Schmidt . Cast: JFK: Michael Brzezinksi, Jackie: Sarah Ulstrup , Agent: Zak Webb . Produced by Lights, Theatre, Action! for Capital Fringe . Reviewed by Ben Demers