Writer: Joseph J. Vitale
Director: Jeremy Williams
Reviewer: Alexis Boursier
American broadcaster Edward R. Murrow has long been a subject of near legendary status. The forefather of American news broadcasting, his life, and career have been the subject of several dramas, perhaps most notably George Clooney’s 2005 film Good Night and Good Luck. These works have largely focused on the broadcaster’s noted feud with and takedown of Senator Joseph McCarthy. Playwright Joseph Vitale attemptsto give a broader look at Murrow’s life, but his success is up for debate.
Vitale’s background in journalism is apparent. He presents us with a carefully crafted, fact heavy monologue. The first acttakes us fromMurrow’s introduction to broadcast journalism as a begrudging producer, all the way through his groundbreaking broadcasts from London during World War II. It is a successful and concise presentation ofthe man’s career, but there isvery little during the first act about the man himself.
The second act focuses onthe more familiar period of Murrow’s celebrated career: his takedown of Joseph McCarthy and HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee). We are given more perspective of and into the person. Vitale uses this period of Murrow’s life, as well as his latter career, to explore Murrow’s views on television and its ability to shape and examine public life under the commercial model. Itis well-presented, andthe tone of the secondact is so different, and much more interesting,than the first.It forces you to wonder if Murrow isn’t better served by an examination solely of this time in his career, rather than an attempt to jam that examinationinto an overview of his life.
Actor Joseph Menino truly takeson Murrow’s presence, voice and air. He captures Murrow in a fashion that, if done poorly, risks comingoff as parody. When he sits at hisdesk, he simply is Edward R. Murrow, and for such a recognizable figure this is no easy task. The staging is spectacular for a one man show, though it occasionally distracts from Menino’sperformance. His placement on stage isoften peculiar when he leaves his iconic position at the broadcast desk. The combination of audio and video recordings interspersed throughout the production, used more to set tone than drive story, are exclusively distractions, more often than not. This, combined with Menino’s occasional broad dramatic gestures, make the whole piece seem disjointed.
Vitale’s research and Menino’s performance are very good; at times, amazing. However the production as a whole falls short. The attempt to produce a piece on Murrow’s whole life, a true biography, doesn’t serve him well. The audio-video presentations are superfluous. It’s worth seeing the showfor Menino’sperformance, for the essence he captures when he presents us with Murrow, the man experiencing public turmoil and ambiguity over television itself. The core of this production is an amazing experience, but it needs to get out of its own way.
Runs until 22 May 2016