Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Columnist

It's not hard to see what attracted David Auburn (Proof) to a historical subject like Joseph Alsop. The twenty odd years covered by The Columnist (1957-1978) were tumultuous ones for America, and Alsop (played here by a tightly wound, ever-graceful John Lithgow) represents a case study in the transition from one era to another, as ambitious journalists like David Halberstam (an earnest Stephen Kunken) and youthful idealists like his step-daughter Abigail (normally played by Grace Gummer; I caught her fine understudy in the role) begin to contest and supplant his domineering hold on "facts," particularly when it comes to Vietnam.

But the reason for columnists in the first place is that facts alone (sadly, in many cases) do not convey a story, and Daniel Sullivan's staid direction makes The Columnist a rather boring affair -- Good Night and Good Luck as opposed to Frost/Nixon. I suspect audiences who lived through these times may find the historical resonances more compelling, even though they're so artlessly thrown in our faces (unlike, say, the far more thrilling and subtle Mad Men). But I doubt that'll be enough to overcome the dramatic inertia of The Columnist, a play that feels as alive as newsprint and about as timeless.

[Read full review here]
(30 Under 30 ticket; Balcony Seat A9)

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