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Change Agent

Change Agent
Arena Stage
Jordan Wright
February 6, 2022

Andrea Abello and Luis Vega in Change Agent at Arena Stage running January 21 – March 6, 2022. Photo by Margot Schulman.

Playwright Craig Lucas’s Change Agent follows John F. Kennedy’s meteoric rise to the presidency from his political evolution and inner circle coterie to his battles with CIA Director Allan Dulles. Along the way we learn of the backstabbing tactics of Washington Post journalist Joseph Alsop and his legendary salons where he peddled his influence amid the powerbrokers. Much of this was well-documented, but the darkest revelations didn’t surface until after Kennedy’s assassination in 1969. Change Agent pulls us back into that turbulent period, touching on the McCarthy HUAC hearings, Allen Dulles’s control of the CIA and J. Edgar Hoover’s influence on policy as a backdrop to Kennedy’s (Luis Vega) rise to power, and it hints broadly of their conspiracy to murder JFK for not adhering to their clandestine operations.

Luis Vega and Andrea Abello in Change Agent at Arena Stage running January 21 – March 6, 2022. Photo by Margot Schulman.

Framed by Kennedy’s strained relationship with Jackie and his rumored affair with socialite and artist Mary Pinchot Meyer (Andrea Abello), the drama captures the diabolical war-mongerers who undermined Kennedy’s desire to lead the country towards a more progressive, anti-racist climate. If you’re familiar with some of these full-blown theories, you know they can lead down a rabbit hole you may not want to travel.

Lucas also acts in the role of Director and some of his decisions make for a slog as the characters’ love lives, affairs and party-going seem less than necessary. As for this as a period piece, others of Arena’s Power Play series have been more focused, more dramatically staged and more indelibly acted as they should be given the weighty political subject matter. If you’ve followed the farrago of conspiracies surrounding the assassination of JFK, this lays it all out with a smidgen of this and a dab of that without once mentioning Jack Ruby or Lee Harvey Oswald.

Andrea Abello and Kathryn Tkel in Change Agent at Arena Stage running January 21 – March 6, 2022. Photo by Margot Schulman.

The story takes us from 1936 to 1965, America – from JFK’s boarding school days meeting the spitfire and liberal activist Mary Meyer (a curious mention is Mary’s studies under famed American artist Kenneth Nolan) to the Kennedy family tragedies, and through WWII into the tony watering holes of Provincetown and Georgetown leading up to Kennedy’s time in the White House. Tension hangs over Mary and Jack’s affair along with her marital difficulties with Cord (Jeffrey Omura) her McCarthy-loving, CIA husband. Mary calls it, “living with what we cannot bear.” In this telling, Jackie appears to condone their affair and she and Mary are the best of pals. Here everyone is deeply flawed, and everyone has a secret agenda. Welcome to Washington!

With Kathryn Tkel as Jackie and Regan Linton as Cicely.

Set Design by Wilson Chin; Costume Design by Alejo Vietti; Lighting Design by Cha See; Original Music and Sound Design by Broken Chord; Projection Design by Caite Hevner.

Through March 6th at Arena Stage in the Kogod Cradle – 1101 6th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20024.  For tickets and information visit

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