In Renaissance Theatreworks’ “Rose,” matriarch Kennedy faces a crisis

Speaking about her life with an unseen biographer, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy (portrayed by Linda Reiter), mother of a president and senators, defends the differences in how she treated her sons and daughters.

“I taught them that life is about compromises. And women make them.”

In Renaissance Theatreworks’ new production of Laurence Leamer’s one-man play “Rose,” one of America’s most prominent Irish Catholic women looks remarkably like a powerful but constrained European queen at the time. clinging above all to a code and a role in the face of the dramas and infidelities of her husband.

Leamer, whose books about this famous family include “The Kennedy Women,” tapped many hours of interviews with Rose conducted by a former biographer as the source for this piece.

“Rose” catches up with her in 1969 in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, about a week after the Chappaquiddick incident, which resulted in the death of car passenger Mary Jo Kopechne and endless questions for the driver, Edward (Ted ) Kennedy, who would later receive a suspended sentence for leaving the scene of an accident.

On the day of the play, Teddy, as his mother always calls her youngest son, went sailing alone but was slow to return. His fear of what may have happened to him (or what he may have done) repeatedly breaks his reserve.

Her inner steel and observant Catholicism (represented here by Reiter frequently handling rosaries) saw her through the assassinations of JFK and Bobby, and the deaths of two other children in plane crashes. But two things threaten to unravel her emotionally: the lobotomy her husband arranged for his mentally handicapped daughter Rosemary and Teddy’s meltdown.

(Rosemary, virtually incapacitated after this operation, would spend most of her life at St. Coletta Institution in Jefferson, Wisconsin.)

Reiter gives us a flint Rose, nostalgic in reminiscences of her charming father but honest enough to point out how he blocked her desires. It’s a piece that throws a lot of biographical information at the audience, but Reiter’s diction and delivery are impeccable and not a word is missed. Her phone conversations with her daughters and daughters-in-law show how she promulgates the Kennedy Way.

Projected images designed by Smooch (John) Medina highlight his stories, as does eerie sound design by Josh Schmidt. Elizabeth Margolius directed this production.

Whereas before Vatican II circular Catholicism shaped and sometimes distorted her life, Rose continues to preach it to others. But she admits to us, under the influence of Jackie O, that she now reads Greek tragedy.

Contact Jim Higgins at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @jhiggy.

If you are going to

Renaissance Theatreworks presents “Rose” through June 5 at 255 S. Water St. For tickets, visit or call (414) 278-0765.

next season

Renaissance Theatreworks is planning these shows for its 2022-23 season, its 30th:

“The How and the Why” 21 Oct-Nov 13. In Sarah Treem, two female biologists of different generations discuss and confront each other personally and professionally – about the science and meaning of menstruation.

“Cost of life,” 20 Jan-Feb February 12, 2023. Renaissance is collaborating with the Pink Umbrella Theater Company and the Phamaly Theater Company on Martyna Majok’s Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about the emotional relationships between two people with disabilities and their caregivers.

“Tidy,” From March 24 to April 6, 2023. Renaissance gives the world premiere of Kristin Idaszak’s play, which can appeal to both lovers and haters of Marie Kondo.

Renaissance performs at 255 S. Water St. For subscription information, visit

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