Friday, February 3, 2012

CQ/CX **

(Please click on the title to see the full review.)
First, the title: it's a newsroom symbol for "fact verified" and "fact corrected." Not exactly a grabber.
Alas, neither is this new play, by former Times news assistant Gabe McKinley, now in an Atlantic Theater Company production at the Peter Norton Space. The Atlantic is billing it as a "docudrama," which is a very tricky genre. What is the value of reanimating a decade-old scandal, unless it is to provide new insight, clarify the context and motivation or make it more coherent dramatically? Alas, CQ/CX does not really succeed at any of these things. It presents real-life identifiable New York Times figures under slightly altered names, along with characters who may or may not be fictionalized. The imagined conversations and monologues of Times honchos as played by David Pittu, Arliss Howard, Peter Jay Fernandez and Tim Hopper deliberately include several remarks that, colored by the wisdom of hindsight, now sound either foolish or ironic and allow the audience to feel superior. The relations among the three interns in the Times diversity program - a black man, an Hispanic woman and a Jew, respectively played by Kobi Libii, Sheila Tapia and Steve Rosen -- are ploddingly depicted. The old editor played by Larry Bryggman adds a note of pathos, but has little to do with the main action. The biggest flaw is the version of Jayson Blair written by McKinley and played by Libii. Either the role is poorly written or his acting is not up to snuff or both. We leave the theater with no deeper understanding of why he did what he did, which makes the whole proceeding rather pointless. David Levaux directed. The production values are all first-rate, but for me that only emphasized that the play isn't. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes including an intermission.

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