One way to make the 448-page Mueller report more accessible to the general public? Turn it into live entertainment.
On Monday night in front of an audience, John Lithgow, Annette Bening, Kevin Kline, Kyra Sedgwick, Alyssa Milano, Michael Shannon, Alfre Woodard, Joel Grey and more took the stage at New York’s Riverside Church for a live reading of “The Investigation: A Search for the Truth in Ten Acts.”
Adapted by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan from former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report, the play focused primarily on Mueller’s findings around whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice.
The 10 acts of the play each had a title corresponding to an act of possible obstruction committed by Trump. The titles were:
- Act One: President Trump Asked the FBI Director to Shut Down the Investigation Into National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
- Act Two: President Trump Said He Fired FBI Director Comey Because of the Russia Investigation.
- Act Three: President Trump Ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to Fire Robert Mueller.
- Act Four: President Trump Attempted to Curtail the Special Counsel Investigation.
- Act Five: President Trump Prevented the Public Disclosure of Evidence.
- Act Six: President Trump Wanted Attorney General Sessions to Unrecuse From the Russia Investigation.
- Act Seven: President Trump Directed White House Counsel Don McGahn to Create False Documents That Covered Up the Truth From Investigators.
- Act Eight: President Trump Tried to Discourage Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn From Cooperating With the Mueller Investigation.
- Act Nine: President Trump Encouraged Michael Cohen to Lie About Trump Tower Moscow.
- Act Ten: President Trump Tried to Get Longtime Lawyer Michael Cohen Not to Cooperate With the Investigation.
These acts were named repeatedly throughout the performance — first by Bening, who was the narrator, at the beginning of each act. They were repeated by Bening and others again toward the end. They were also reiterated in a special video segment, which featured actors who weren’t present for the live reading such as Mark Hamill, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Mark Ruffalo and Sigourney Weaver.
Lithgow earned plenty of laughs as Trump delivering many of the president’s memorable quotes and tweets.
Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether President Trump committed any crimes, but presented his evidence in the report. In addition to focusing on those possible instances of obstruction, the play reiterated that Mueller did not exonerate the president.
“If we had confidence that the president did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” said Kline as Mueller.
“The lawyers did a superb job, but it’s a legal document… it’s a little hard to work through as a citizen. But it’s a classic Watergate story, where it’s not just the crime but also the coverup that gets people in trouble,” Schenkkan told The Times Monday afternoon in advance of the performance.
“We hope to make the central narrative of the report very clear to anyone: What actually happened; who did what, when and why; and why it matters. I hope people will find it illuminating and thought-provoking, and ultimately move them to action, whatever that means to them,” he added.
Directed by Scott Ellis, the performance also featured Jason Alexander, Gina Gershon, Piper Perabo, Justin Long, Frederick Weller, Ben McKenzie, Noah Emmerich, Wilson Cruz and Aidan Quinn. The production was presented by LawWorks.
“The Investigation” is the entertainment world’s latest take on the Mueller report, which was also at the center of a recent Now This video with Robert De Niro, Stephen King, Martin Sheen, Laurence Fishburne, Sophia Bush, Rob Reiner, Rosie Perez, George Takei and Jonathan Van Ness. It’s also the subject of a number of newly launched true-crime podcasts. L.A.-based Brain Zoo Studios has even begun a Kickstarter campaign to fund an animated series based on the report.
Times staff writer Ashley Lee contributed to this story.