Curtain Call: Connecticut brings two productions on Robert F. Kennedy to the stage

Actor Christian Manuel portrays Robert F. Kennedy in Music Theatre of Connecticut’s production of “RFK.”

Actor Christian Manuel portrays Robert F. Kennedy in Music Theatre of Connecticut’s production of “RFK.”

Music Theatre of Connecticut / Contributed photo

It’s not unusual for two theaters to present two different shows dealing with the same subject. It’s not even unusual for two theaters to present the same show as long as they obtain the rights to the show, which most often means these theaters are located far from each other and not likely to compete for the same audience. Such is the case with Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) and Playhouse on Park. They are both presenting works that focus on Robert F. Kennedy (RFK). Both stories are timely because RFK was a champion for equal rights. Interestingly, both theaters had to make changes in their season due to COVID-19 and both selected two different plays about RFK.

MTC, following safety guidelines for actors, crews and audience, is offering two options for experiencing “RFK” by Jack Holmes. Audiences can either opt for in-person tickets and enter the limited seats within the Norwalk-based theater, or they can opt for livestream tickets and enjoy the show from the comfort of their homes.

Kevin Connors, executive artistic director and cofounder of the theater, said that his presentation is livestreamed, whereas the Playhouse on Park located in West Hartford has a recorded presentation featuring the actor who performed the role in New York. Both are different, both are timely and both are looking for strong audience response.

“At first we were going to do a Rosemary Clooney show, but with the pandemic we had to change,” said Connors. When he came upon “RFK,” he was struck with the places in the text that are “eerily” like now — our world today. The piece takes place between 1964 and 1968 and includes the assassination of RFK.

“He ran for president reluctantly after Johnson announced he would not run for the office. There are so many parallels in this piece that it was hard to pass it up,” Connors stated, pointing out that MTC was not willing to do nothing. “I wanted to reopen with something small. I was committed to doing something and not wait for the storm to pass.” After researching all the guidelines coming from the state as well as Equity, the theater chose the RFK piece.

As it turns out, Connors has seen ticket sales from all over the country. This is an advantage of streaming performances, although it is not the same as being in a theater and watching actors perform live in front of you. Nonetheless, Connors is confident that the theater is not in trouble and said, “We’re happy to be strong and mighty.” You can catch “RFK” from Oct. 23 through Nov. 8. To contact MTC’s box office, call 203-454-3883.

As for Playhouse on Park located in West Hartford, “Kennedy: Bobby’s Last Crusade” by David Arrow has been extended through Oct. 11. This is a film of the play because it could not be produced or filmed in Connecticut. According to promotional material, this play focuses on RFK’s short campaign for president from entering the race in 1968, including his famous speeches, private apprehensions and personal events until his assassination. To contact Playhouse on Park’s box office, call 860-5900 EXT 10.

Joanne Greco Rochman was a founding member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and is an active member in the American Theatre Critics Association. She welcomes comments. Contact: