New York City Theater–Spring 2019

We had a fast, four-night, three-day trip to New York City in which we jammed in six plays. Here are our reviews.

Ink

Ever wonder how Rupert Murdoch made his move into the big time, from his first small Australian newspaper to London’s Fleet Street—and then into U.S. newspapers and television? This engaging and strikingly staged show portrays the one year from his purchase of London’s The Sun tabloid though its process of continually stretching and increasingly shredding the British concept of journalism to his success of building one of the largest subscription bases in the country. Although Murdoch certainly set the initial tone for the paper, it was his hand-picked Managing Editor that that pioneered many of the practices that have since come to define sensationalist “journalism.” We especially enjoyed the production’s staging.

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Hillary and Clinton

John Lithgow and the always wonderful Laurie Metcalf star in this (probably?) fictional episode in the 2008 primary when a dejected Hillary speculates about becoming Obama’s running mate, firing her campaign manager and relying more heavily on a husband with whom she has not yet fully reconciled from his many indiscretions. A wonderfully acted, fun and funny escapade.

<i>Hillary and Clinton</i> - Opening Night

To Kill a Mockingbird

Wow!! With Harper Lee’s novel, Aaron Sorkin’s playwrighting and Jeff Daniels’ acting, there was no chance that we would miss this play—despite its modest reviews and a lawsuit over Sorkin’s liberal reinterpretation of novel’s structure and sequence. Are we glad we got tickets. We were amazed with the incredibly powerful and poignant production. And then there was the inspired use of the 40-year old Celia Keenan-Bolger who brought to the role of six-year old Scout Finch, the wise beyond-her-years narrator. A must-see play that we will not soon forget.

Fiddler on the Roof

We all know the story of Fiddler, with its pre-revolutionary Russian Jewish village’s focus on—and perpetual challenges to—tradition. But how does it translate into Yiddish? Actually, quite well, at least with continual translations on the side of the stage. The play continues to deliver its wonderful blend of pathos and humor and the songs are still lovely. We certainly enjoyed it and there is something to be said for staging the play in the language the people actually spoke. Overall, however, we did often find ourselves torn between reading the words and watching the action on the stage.

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Network

Another stage production of a story which is familiar to many of us from the movie. It portrays the trauma of a struggling television network news program that suddenly finds itself vaulting to the top of the ratings after its soon to be laid-off anchor announces that he will soon kill himself on the air. The network execs, thrilled with the ratings, encourages and manipulates him and his increasingly psychotic populist ravings until they threaten to derail a planned buyout of the network by a Saudi-financed conglomerate. While Tom found the slightly updated 1970s-era plot, with its corporate greed and conflict between populism and corporatism to be timely, Joyce didn’t feel that it translated well to the present. We did, however, agree that Ivo Van Hove’s sets and direction, and especially Bryan Cranston’s emotive acting were superb.

What the Constitution Means to Me

This semi-biographical play written and acted by Heidi Schreck, was based on a high-school contest in which she won an American Legion contest by giving a speech on the title of the play and speaking extemporaneously on an amendment chosen at random. Her success resulted in a speaking tour of American Legion posts that ended up paying for her college. The first, and weakest part of the play was basically a review and update of that experience. Much stronger was when she spoke of a legacy of her family’s intergenerational violence against women and the limited legal remedies that were, and in some cases still are, available to women. Better yet was when she brought a high school constitutional scholar onto stage and the two staged a multi-part debate on whether the constitution should be retained (and amended) or repealed in favor of creating a new document based on “positive rights” rather than the “negative rights” embodied in the current document. Interesting but we were glad it was a short play. Making this a little harder were the confining theater seats which provided meager leg room…even in the orchestra section.

Image result for What the Constitution Means to Me broadway

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