Lucky Guy Apr15


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Lucky Guy

Extra! Read All About It! One of the Pleasant Surprises of the Season

luckyguyWC3A 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.

lucky guyThe 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:

This show contains:
— Language
— God’s name taken in vain
— Sexual dialogue

Lauren Yarger is Executive Director/Producer with Masterwork Productions, Inc. She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the CT SPJ, the Connecticut Critics Circle, Christians in Theatre Arts, the Episcopal Actors Guild and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Keep up with her theatre reviews atReflections in the Light.