Friday, April 12, 2013

Theater Review: Lucky Guy

Extra! Read All About It! One of the Pleasant Surprises of the Season
By Lauren Yarger
A film star in a Broadway show. That's not really news nowadays, when producers increasingly are relying on star power to sell seats on the Great White Way. Most of the time nominators are more than happy to throw award nominations at them too, whether the performances are worthy or not just so Broadway can seem glamorous.

Tom Hanks in Nora Ephron's Lucky Guy doesn't fall into this category, however, and the fine production is one of the pleasant surprises of the season.

I wasn't sure what to expect and not only because of the whole "movie-star-makes- his-Broadway debut" thing. The story of New York columnist Mike McAlary is full of gritty newspaper reporting, corruption, injustice and in his personal case, cancer. That's not the stuff of comedy, which I associate with the late Ephron, whose screenplays were vehicles for Hanks' movie fame ("Sleepless in Seattle," "You've Got Mail" are among her many titles.) And the last play I saw about him and his career, The Wood by Dan Klores, needed a good editor.

So enjoying solid performances (directed by George C. Wolfe) in a really good play that also found humor (yay, Nora!) and reunited Hanks with his old "Bosom Buddies" costar Peter Scolari as columnist Mike Daly, was a pleasant surprise indeed (I really liked that TV show). The play lets us relive some of the good old days of journalism, when reporters new how to do their job and did it well. It felt like a transfusion of printer's ink in the veins.

McAlary starts as a reporter under beloved editor John Cotter (a perfect Peter Gerety). His dream is to write a column in New York like his idol, Jimmy Breslin (back in the day, being allowed to write regular stories on a beat that included your opinion was the privilege of a few, who were given the title columnist. Today every news reporter and blogger without training thinks telling you their opinion is reporting the news.)

McAlary hangs out with other news cohorts at the Irish pub (where Cotter closes the place most nights) and is well liked. He's known for getting people to talk when they don't want to and soon is exposing police corruption and getting "the wood" -- the banner headline in a tabloid newspaper, so big the type had to be set in wood. The news world is rounded out by Hap Hairston (an engaging Courtney B. Vance), Jerry Nachman (Richard Masur), Bob Drury (Danny Mastrogiorgio), Jim Dwyer (Michael Gaston) and others, with a few of the actors playing dual roles.

The lone female, Louise Imerman, is played by Deirdre Lovejoy, who is a hoot as the foul-mouthed, tough-as-nails reporter trying to make it in the all-male newsroom world of the 1980s. The character probably seems so real because Ephron herself worked at a tabloid as a reporter. Lovejoy also plays Debby Krenck, McAlary's editor toward the end of his career.

Ephron uses all of the characters to help tell the story by having them step out of the action and address the audience directly. Enhancing the transition through time and spaces are really fabulous sets by designer David Rockwell. He emphasizes the black and white of the newspapers behind the action of the play.

McAlary gets his column -- and a lot of money as he switches writing for different papers over the years -- thanks to the negotiating skills of friend and lawyer Eddie Hayes (Christopher McDonald). His wife, Alice (a fine Maura Tierney), wishes he would spend more time with her and the kids at the large house they have been able to afford, but McAlary gets caught in the fast lane of success, until he crashes. Literally.

Recovering from serious injuries sustained in a car accident, he goes back to work too soon and makes a questionable decision about one story that damages his reputation. He can't quite find his stride again, and is discouraged in the face of a cancer diagnosis. Then he interviews a young Haitian immigrant, Abner Louima (Stephen Tyrone Williams), who was arrested and brutally sodomized by police. McAlary won the Pulitzer Prize for that story shortly before his death. Sadly, Ephron also died shortly after this play was written.

Take a trip into the old world of newspapers and into some really good theater for today. Hanks is very good and so is the play. And that's my opinion, as a journalist paid to tell you what I think about theater.

Lucky Guy plays at the Broadhurst Theatre, 235 west 44th St., NYC through June 16, For tickets and information: http://www.luckyguyplay.com.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Language
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexual dialogue

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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