(Review by Tulis McCall)
In every play you need, or hope for, a protagonist and an antagonist to butt heads. The person who wants something vs. the person who is in the way.
As far as I can tell, and I am not certain Mr. McKinley is aware of this, protagonist here is The New York Times, and the antagonists are just about everyone else. Not that these characters don’t want the Times to survive. They do. But each wants The Times to survive THEIR way.
CQ/CX is editorial shorthand for copy that has been vetted and copy that needs correction. One magic factoid we discover here is that there is no one on staff to fact check journalists at The Times. Everyone is on the honor system, which kind of failed here. The play takes place between 1998 and 2003 when a certain Jay Bennett (Koni Libii) [read Jayson Blair] interned, was hired as a reporter, and was fired for misrepresenting his facts and plagiarizing.
Junior (David Pittu) [read: Arthur Schlessinger, Jr.] begins our story welcoming the interns to the best place to work in the world. One of the reasons it is the best place is that the paper has been in his family for quite a period of time. They have avoided the proverbial takeovers and shake-ups and kept The Times not only relevant but iconic. It is the first paper that the President of the United States reads every day.
Hal Martin, (Arliss Howard) [read: Howell Raines], the about to be Executive Editor is a native New Yorker by way of Alabama. He loves the paper so much that just the mention of it can bring him to tears. Like Junior, he believes that The Times on its own truly makes the world a better place.
Gerald Haynes (Peter Jay Fernandez) [read Gerald Boyd] the about to be Managing Editor believes not only in the paper, but in what he had to do to rise to the top. As a black man he experienced the racism within that the paper decried without. Haynes knows the double standard well.
Frank King (Larry Bryggman) seems to represent all the reporters that have graced the halls of the Gray Lady. He came up at a time when the paper still came off the presses in the bowels of the building. He has ink on his hands and in his blood. Were he to be let go, he would have no life at all.
Ben (Tim Hopper) [read Jonathan Landman] is a bit more pragmatic. He is proud of the paper but unsentimental about its life. He is so unsentimental that he can disagree with vigor because personalities come second to the paper itself.
Into this mix Blair is thrown along with two colleagues Monica Soria (Sheila Tapia) [read Macarena Hernandez] from whom Blair would steal a story years later) and Jacob Sherman (Steve Rosen) who rounds out the diversity pool as the only Jewish underling – and who also has all the best lines that he delivers with great polish.
Because there are so many stories with no one leading the parade, we miss whatever emotional bang the author intended. Blair is a self-centered opportunist at best. The rest, with the exception of Frank King – and Larry Bryggman has never been better - have no life or death decisions to make. They hope to survive as part of the Good Ship Times, but if they don’t it is not the end of the world.
So everyone wants something and no one wants anything bad enough to fall on their sword for it. And if the characters aren’t risking anything – neither are we.
Incidentally, this is clearly a boys’ tale that leaves out Senior Editor Nancy Sharkey and journalist Sheila Rule who were important players in Blair’s career as well as the discovery of his transgressions. Their inclusion might have upped the stakes and turned this bland tale into one that was as riveting as the story was when it played out in front of us. In the New York Times of course.
Frank Rizzo for New York Times
"Goes from compelling to cop-out."
Joe Dziemianowicz for New York Daily News
"A cheesy, ham-fisted affair."
Elisabeth Vincentelli for New York Post
"Leaves too many unanswered questions to qualify as successful drama."
Erik Haagensen for Back Stage
"Never gets up a dramatic head of steam"
Robert Feldberg for The Record
"The theatrical equivalent of a page turner."
Roma Torre for NY1
"Fatally hollow at its core."
Michael Sommers for Newsroom Jersey
External links to full reviews from popular press...