Just in case there hasn’t been enough real-life drama involving presidential politics for your tastes, Asolo Repertory theatre in Sarasota is starting its winter season with “The Great Society,” an acclaimed drama about the administration of Lyndon Baines Johnson.
It’s a sequel to “All the Way,” which Asolo Rep staged last season.
The first play essentially started with LBJ taking office after John F. Kennedy’s assassination and took audiences up through 1964. It was dense and fascinating, painting a complex portrait of Johnson, who is depicted as a brilliant politician who maneuvered and finagled to get the Civil Rights Bill passed, against most people’s expectations.
“The Great Society” chronicles Johnson’s full term as elected president, up through his shocking announcement that he would not run for re-election.
Director Nicole A. Watson is making her debut with Asolo Rep, but she has worked on “The Great Society” in other productions. Although Johnson, especially in the last half of his presidency, was most known for escalating the Vietnam War, the play shows that he worked hard on programs that would benefit underprivileged Americans.
There’s no doubt some license was taken for the sake of drama, but Watson said that playwright Robert Schenkkan, who wrote both “All the Way” and “The Great Society,” obviously cared about historical accuracy and did a lot of meticulous research into events and personalities.
Schenkkan won the Pulitizer Prize for his play “The Kentucky Cycle.” “All The Way” won the Tony Award for Best Play, and Schenkkan adapted it for a 2016 film starring Bryan Cranston as LBJ.
Details: Jan. 13-April 2 (in repertory), Mertz Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, 5555 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Various times. $14-$90. 941-351-8000, asolorep.org.