Frame 312

Keith Reddin
Atlantic Theater, New York
(2003)

It is perhaps surprising that this play, which appeared in London as part of the Donmar's first American Imports season a couple of years ago, is only now making its debut in the playwright's home town.

Some may feel that the topic of John F. Kennedy's assassination, described by one character in an unforgettable line as "the most famous snuff film in history," has been done to death over the last forty years. Indeed, depending on one's taste in media, Oliver Stone's JFK and Don Delillo's Libra may be regarded as masterpieces of the genre.

Frame 312 is part bumbling spy story and part family drama. It explores the subject from the standpoint of the legendary amateur film taken by Abraham Zapruder and sold to Life magazine.

The premise is that Lee Harvey Oswald was part of a larger team and that the 312nd frame of Zapruder's film proved the case but the evidence was suppressed by the highest powers.

Our heroine, Lynette (played older and younger by Mary Beth Peil and Mandy Siegfried) is recently widowed in 1998 and has been landed with a dysfunctional family.

Social worker daughter, Stephanie (Elizabeth Hanly Rice), is on medication for depression. Her brother, the heartless, mercenary Tom (Greg Stuhr), is repeating his father's mistakes and is not greatly helped by his wife, Marie (Maggie Kiley) and her permanent Prozac smile.

Lynette has chosen her birthday to announce her involvement in the JFK story and this allows Reddin to flashback to her youth and the day that JFK died, as well as developing the family's battles.

The London production really centred on Stephanie who was finely portrayed by Doraly Rosen. In New York, the play's general lack of focus is apparent. None of the protagonists is seen sympathetically and Karen Kohlhaas' cast overacts, seemingly in an effort to inject feeling.

The Atlantic has done itself proud with Walt Spangler's reconstruction of Lynette's colonial-style house complete with patio and garden, Mimi O'Donnell's perfect sixties costumes and Robert Perry's lighting.

As a play about a family in mourning, Frame 312 is nothing extraordinary. For those millions who are still desperate to get to the bottom of what really happened in Dallas in November 1963 or still worship JFK, Frame 312 should prove thought-provoking.

Reviewer: Philip Fisher