Rose: Theater review by Sandy MacDonald
Was Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy the Machiavellian matriarch of an American political dynasty or just a devout, devoted, possibly self-deluded wife and mother? Laurence Leamer depicts the war between these two Roses in his tightly constructed solo play, set at the Kennedy family’s Hyannis Port compound in July 1969, a week after the Chappaquiddick disaster. At times Rose seems tightly controlled, as when she disavows any knowledge of the bootlegging that filled her marital coffers. But her litany of tragedies—four of nine children killed in their prime, another all but brain dead—also drives her to self-castigating anger. (“All my life I have obeyed men,” she laments, then reaches for the rosary beads.)
One could not ask for a better interpreter of this complex role than the brilliant Kathleen Chalfant. Clad in an Arnold Scaasi–esque pantsuit by Jane Greenwood, she exudes her signature fiery intelligence. Rose’s thwarted drive is all there, kept in check by constant hand-wringing—a gesture not of guilt but of determination to maintain decorum at all costs.—Sandy MacDonald
Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row (Off Broadway). By Laurence Leamer. Directed by Caroline Reddick Lawson. With Kathleen Chalfant. Running time: 1hr 30mins. No intermission.