The story is full of great opportunities to delve into the interactions between these two generations of reporters, the changes afoot in the newspaper business, and the racial issues long-plaguing the New York Times. And the play does that, but by focusing on recreating the verisimilitude of the New York Times newsroom and it's culture, somehow real drama and character development got lost in the shuffle. An uneven cast did not help matters. The characters spent so much time explaining that they never got to be real fully-developed people. There was so much about what it means to be a reporter, and a reporter for the Times, and what the Times means to people. But I just wanted to know who these people were because it is Bennett's personal betrayal of these people that is the core of the drama.
Midway through I thought what if someone more experienced like David Lindsay-Abaire had taken a stab at this play. One of the impressive feats of his recent play Good People, was that he found a delicate way to convey class issues in America and did so with humor and real pathos. Here, Gabe McKinley did not have such a delicate hand. The play was practically without humor. Not that it should be a funny play, but it seemed as if every line was drenched in the weight of outrageous self-importance and Biblical-level seriousness of purpose such that the humanity of the characters was utterly lost. It's hard to do a play about the Times without that sense of self-importance to be present--and the play does poke fun at it a bit. But they stopped being dramatic characters under the weight of this dialogue.
|Loved the David Rockwell set even if you can't really see it here|
Sadly, I wish I could say the same about Kobi Libii's turn as Jay. Since so much of the play depends on him, it's hard to recommend the play with him in this role. Every time he was on stage I felt the energy of the show drop. He's playing the character to be irritating, charmless,and weaselly. Even before his downfall, you need to believe people would be his friend, would be impressed by his work, and believe he had a future. With this performance, I struggled with all those things. Obviously the parallels between Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass have been made, and are even are made in this play. But I thought the film Shattered Glass did a great job with at least this part of the character journey--Stephen Glass is likable (adorkable really) and his downfall feels hard on both him and those who believed in him. Bennett is a challenging role to write and play because he becomes a betrayer and destroyer. But I really believe you have to start out liking him so that you feel that betrayal and destruction as his friends and colleagues did.
The set design by David Rockwell was fantastic. I loved the use of text, projections, and moving walls to define the space. Leveaux tried to keep the energy moving from scene to scene but it somehow felt more stilted than it should have. A great subject but something was lost in the execution.