B. Franklin

 

 

By John Farrell

If he hadn’t been 84 and afflicted by gout and kidney stones, Benjamin Franklin might well have been the first president of the United States.

Oh yes, and if the people of the new nation could have forgiven his many dalliances with beautiful women, especially in France where he lived for many years. There, he succeeded in getting the upstart American colonies French military assistance when it mattered most.

Mind you, he’s not apologizing.

Robert Lesko is B. Franklin, in a one-man show currently at the Stephanie Feury Theatre in Hollywood. He delights in telling the audience, in some detail, of his amours, his “love of the ladies,” all the while taking care of both his gouty leg and his reputation, which he cares about a great deal.

Lesko looks the part of the 82-year-old Franklin, near the end of his life but still to serve as a part of the convention that brought about the U.S. Constitution. He is in his room, talking to the audience as though they were visitors (and as he notes he loves visitors).

With his bald head fringed with gray hair, dressed in new britches and small clothes, he shaves as he talks and, just occasionally, walks to get a cup of opium tea. This is Franklin as man, talking about his love affairs but also about his family: his wife Debbie, who died while he was in France, his son William, who rose to be royal governor of New Jersey and was in opposition to his father, and his grandchildren, who he cherished. He is still vigorous, though not able to move much, still very much a political power with a large correspondence, but also a man facing his end with a firm heart.

This is a one man show in more than just the actor. Lesko wrote and acted in the play. He has made many choices in the process. Franklin is, as a person, a very complicated man and his conversation is as revealing as he (and Lesko) wants it to be. Perhaps a little more wit, a few more funny lines (Franklin was a very witty man) would pick up the show. But that is a quibble. Getting a chance to sit just a few feet from one of the great men of the past 250 years and enjoy his company for a couple of hours is treat enough.

Tickets are $25. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m., through April 27.

Details: (323) 463-7378www.sfstheatre.com
Venue: Stephanie Feury Studio Theatre
Location: 5636 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles

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