Photo by Don Kellogg

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Columnist

John Lithgow was born to play roles such as this one in David Auburn's new play, The Columnist,  having its world premiere at Manhattan Theatre Club.

Mr. Lithgow, along a cast of superb actors including Margaret Colin, Boyd Gaines, Stephen Kunken, Marc Bonan, Grace Gummer, and Brian J. Smith take us on a carefully crafted interpretation of the famous mid-20th century newspaper columnist, Joseph Alsop.  The times (and The Times) were very different indeed.  News was not a 24-hour multi-media business.  Old-school journalists, at least the successful ones, tended to be insiders with the establishment ("and that's not a compliment" says one of the characters midway through the play).  At the time of the Vietnam war, journalism was opening up and new, younger, more diverse blood in the industry was beginning to develop a voice.

Mr. Lithgow portrays Mr. Alsop with his usual top-notch flair and intensity.  The visual similarities are striking and makes him even more believable.  A Tony nod is likely and well deserved. Mr. Smith, as a young Soviet, shirt on and off, is, once again, a young dynamo - a visual diamond and an aural delight.  Ms. Colin, Mr. Gaines, and Mr. Kunken all provide excellent support to the story and portray their characters with flair and aplomb.

Mr. Alsop would never have approved of this blog nor most of what passes as news today.  Based on what I saw on the stage at the Samuel J. Freidman Theatre (The Biltmore, as I prefer to call it) some of that opinion is probably justified, but indeed, comes along with some less than desirable baggage.