Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Columnist **

(Please click on the title to see the full review.)
It's wonderful to see John Lithgow back on Broadway in David Auburn's new biographical play about Joseph Alsop, now in previews in a Manhattan Theatre Club production. Lithgow's Alsop is arrogant, egotistical, irascible, untroubled by self-doubt, yet not without charm. Boyd Gaines ably plays his brother Stewart. Margaret Colin is less impressive in the somewhat underwritten role of Alsop's wife Susan Mary. Grace Gummer (who is the spitting image of sister Mamie) brings a welcome warmth to the role of Abigail, Alsop's stepdaughter. Stephen Kunken makes a fine David Halberstam. Brian J. Smith, despite being saddled with a thick Russian accent as Andrei, makes a good impression. Marc Bonan has a walk-on as Abigail's visiting friend Philip. The scenic design by John Lee Beatty is attractive, as are the costumes by Jess Goldstein. Daniel Sullivan's direction is unobtrusive. The weak link, alas, is playwright Auburn. The play has a certain connect-the-dots, made for television biopic quality about it. The highs aren't very high and the lows aren't very low. One of the main plot points turns out to be a red herring (or, in this case, a Red herring). Nevertheless, Lithgow's performance makes it essential viewing. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes including intermission.

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