The third show of Attleboro Community Theatre's 52nd season is Keith Reddin's 2001 play "Frame 312" about the John F. Kennedy assassination. It takes place in the early 1960's and mid 1990's. It's Lynette's 50th birthday party in the latter decade where she is living in obscurity. She was an ex-assistant editor of LIFE magazine who has gathered her family around her to celebrate her birthday after her husband, Ed's recent death. She has a secret and needs to confide in them. (Lynette is played by two actresses, one in her early twenties and the other in her early fifties.) In the 1960's when she worked as an assistant on LIFE magazine, she was an 'unwilling' witness to the first showing of the (in)famous 'Zapruder' film of the Kennedy assassination, which allegedly proved the theory that there was a second assassin. Chosen by her boss to hand over the film to the FBI, Lynette is the last surviving link in this particular chain of mysterious events. Thirty years later, the controversy still rumbles on: Lynette must decide if she will forsake her and her family's anonymity for the sake of demonstrating this incontrovertible evidence to the world. She is a suburban housewife with a terrible secret. Greeting her children for her birthday, she has a chance to recognize her children's faults (her son wants 75,000 from his father's insurance money for a new house and her daughter has been hooked on prescription medication for depression for the past 2 years) and her own shortcomings (she got married to escape NY city because she feared for her life after seeing the original film) and reaches out to them. Lynette will tell them of her involvement with this historic event over 30 years earlier. Her inner and outer life have been out of synch, and her final act cracks the surface forever, making it possible for Lynette to unearth her buried self at last. Having lived through the Kennedy assassination, the fear-turned-paranoia of Lynette is completely understandable. The idealism of the United States was shattered that November day. I was in fourth grade, only 9 years old and after hearing of the President's death and watching Ruby kill Oswald on live TV, it made you wondered who would be next. No one mistrusted the government then, the innocence of the time would be changed as it was on September 11, 2001 because the last assassination in the United States had taken place in 1901 with not many people around from that era in 1963. This show's basis is that the original movie was too volatile for anyone to see as it clearly shows a second gunman. Told in two acts with 13 scenes, the show is a reflection of their time periods, the contemporary one is more cynical while the sixties section shows respect for authority and government officials as well as the fashion of a woman going to college, getting married, having children as the norm. Director Beverly Darling constructs a show that mixes the elements of the past and future into a taut, riveting show with excellent acting by her 11 performers especially the two women portraying Lynette. It keeps the audience wondering where this show will take you and what Lynette's final decision will be.
Beverly not only directed the show but designed the set with Tammy England with four different playing areas. The main set is below the main stage, is an outdoor patio setting with a small barbecue, tile flooring, picnic table and chairs and a bar for water and tea. The mainstage is the LIFE magazine offices in center stage while stage right is P.J. Clark's restaurant in Manhattan and stage left are two cushioned seats for the train back to NY from Washington, D.C.. These various sets help to keep the show flowing smoothly from one scene to the next. Beverly's keen insight into her characters and their motives is outstanding, as she mixes the dramatic and comic moments together to keep your attention as the play cuts back and forth through time. She uses historical news snippets including Walter Cronkite's revelation that the president died as well as a quote from Martin Luther King. The older Lynette is beautifully played by Barbara McCarthy as she struggles with herself to guard this piece of history or reveal it to the world. Her angst draws you to the character, making you feel her inner turmoil. Barbara is a beautiful blonde who is clad in a short brunette wig so her hair color will match with the actress playing the younger Lynette. Michelle Monti who I recently reviewed last October in "Mousetrap", tackles another meaty role as Lynette. She gives the girl the needed sympathetic portrayal to see how she became embittered at taking what life threw at her back then. (Life is a pun on the magazine title.) Michelle is in eight out of thirteen scenes and her interaction with the other performers is wonderful as the horror at watching the film with her boss and a ballistic expert escalates into a paranoid episode with an FBI agent, a passenger on the train and the final scene with her best friend, Margie where she almost spills the secret only to stop at last minute while the older Lynette is looking at this exchange. (It leads to Lynette's final startling decision with what to do with this film.) The authentic hairstyles and makeup of the 60's is by Providence Pinup.
The high energy potty mouthed daughter, Stephanie is wonderfully played by award winning actress, Karen Gibson. She is a beautiful blond bombshell in real life but has the acting chops to go along with her good looks. The touching moment between mother and daughter at the end rings true in real life relationships.The overbearing cigarette smoking son, Tom who is unhappy with his life is well played by Chris Gaulin. He makes this man into a prick when he pressures his mother into giving him the insurance money, when he snaps at his wife and argues with his sister incessantly. Kim Alessandro, an other award winning actress plays Tom's wife, Marie who tries to improve the relationship between her husband and their two young daughters. Beautiful red head, Jennifer White plays Margie, Lynette's best friend at work and does a great job in this role. They discuss boyfriends in the beginning of the show, the movie "My Fair Lady" in the restaurant scene where Lynette tells Margie that Audrey Hepburn's voice has been dubbed in the movie which is a reflection on the "fake" Zapruder film and in the last scene together discuss how marriage will be happy for both of them. The well meaning boss at LIFE, Mr. Graham who is the one who kept the original film because it was so volatile is well played by Lenny Contaxes. The editor has a fatal disease and he entrusts the film into Lynette's hands. The other talented cast members include Peter Morse as Mr. Roy, Alex Aponte as Agent Barry, Lydia Mattera as Doris and Joshua Braden as the Conductor. So for a look back at the 1960's, be sure to catch "Frame 312".