Bryan Cranston plays LBJ onstage as ‘Breaking Bad’ ends [Updated]

Bryan Cranston as LBJ in "All the Way" at American Repertory Theatre.
Bryan Cranston as LBJ in “All the Way” at American Repertory Theatre.
(Evgenia Eliseeva)

As fans of “Breaking Bad” bade farewell to the critically acclaimed AMC drama series on Sunday evening, its star Bryan Cranston was otherwise engaged far from the show’s New Mexico locations, playing President Lyndon B. Johnson in a stage production in Massachusetts.

Cranston is appearing in “All the Way,” a play about LBJ’s presidency, at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass. The production is the latest stage work by Pulitzer Prize-winning dramatist Robert Schenkkan, best known for “The Kentucky Cycle.”

[Updated 10:00 a.m.]: A spokeswoman for A.R.T. said that Cranston appeared in Sunday’s matinee performance and then flew to Los Angeles for a “Breaking Bad” event. She said the actor is scheduled to be back in Cambridge for the next performance on Tuesday evening.

The cast features Michael McKean as J. Edgar Hoover and Los Angeles theater veteran Dakin Matthew in several roles, including Sen. Richard Russell.


“All the Way,” which began performances Sept. 13, is scheduled to conclude its sold-out run at A.R.T. on Oct. 12. The three-hour political drama, which premiered in 2012 with a different cast at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, has received strong reviews for Cranston’s performance as the 36th president.

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Variety critic Frank Rizzo wrote that “Cranston gives a dazzling, far-ranging and moving” performance. The play is gripping, but still “has an abbreviated feel since Schenkkan takes on so many story strands.”

Charles Isherwood of the New York Times wrote that Cranston “cuts a vigorous, imposing figure as L.B.J.,” delivering a performance that “glitters with an almost salacious ruthlessness.” As for the play, it “works just fine as a PowerPoint lesson in political history, but it ultimately accrues minimal dramatic momentum.”

The Boston Globe’s Joel Brown noted that while Cranston may not physically resemble the former president, he “delivers Johnson’s outsize presence, his cackling humor and sudden rages, his canny maneuvering and his self-pity.”


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