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Even on Broadway, The Show Mustn't Go On
November 14, 2007  | By David Bianculli
The day I launched this website, the Writers Guild of America went on strike. Less than a week later, the Local One union of stagehands went on strike in New York. Both strikes are still going on strong - which means, among other things, that Aaron Sorkin's The Farnsworth Invention, scheduled to have its opening night tonight on Broadway, isn't.

His drama about TV has, in effect, been turned off.

Presumably, this particular strike won't last too long. TV studios are stupid enough to let audiences erode for six months or more, but the folks financing Broadway aren't about to sacrifice the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday seasons. The smart bet, therefore, is that Sorkin's play will indeed enjoy an opening night soon.

cast of FarnsworthStill, I feel for that cast, and for Sorkin, because when I saw The Farnsworth Invention in previews last week, it was running smoothly and impressively. Hank Azaria should have been able to grab the early editions of tomorrow's papers and enjoy glowing reviews for conquering a tricky, and an essentially serious, role as RCA founder David Sarnoff. Jimmi Simpson, as television inventor Philo Farnsworth, should have basked in just as much glory.

And Sorkin, returning to Broadway for the first time since his debut with A Few Good Men, should have been able to enjoyed high praise for his new play's utterly unusual and successful dramatic structure: in the play, each leading character, Sarnoff and Farnsworth, narrates the story of the other.

Yet instead of reading reviews on opening night, they, like everyone else who might have migrated to Farnworth last evening, got to read flyers handed out in front of the Music Box Theatre by Local One stagehands.

"Cuts in our jobs and wages," read the flyer that was handed to me outside the theatre last night, "will never result in a cut in ticket prices to benefit the public, but only an increase in the profits for producers."

For audiences, it's not the same sensation as sitting in the Music Box, flipping through a Playbill, and reading the "At This Theatre" page while waiting for the lights to dim. This particular Broadway house is dark already. For audiences, the feeling is more like standing outside the picket line reading a "Not at This Theatre" notice.

As for Sorkin, Azaria and Simpson, if they're going to get to read a review on their original opening night, it has to be this one, based on a week-old performance. It's not the same, but hey: Aaron, Hank, and Jimmi, you did yourselves, Broadway and television proud. And that joke at the end, about the moon walk, is a killer.

Unfortunately, for now, there's no longer any laughter to be heard inside the Music Box. And what's going on outside, and all over Broadway, and all across New York and Hollywood at the moment - that's no laughing matter, either.


1 Comment


Grant Goodyear said:

I'm very much enjoying the new web site.

Thanks for the RSS feed for the blog. Now if there were only an RSS feed for the daily best bets, the site would be perfect.

Best of luck!

Comment posted on November 14, 2007 12:05 PM

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