In Broadway’s “Community,” Bryan Cranston does the inconceivable: Enjoying Howard Beale, the so-called mad prophet of the airwaves, he makes Peter Finch’s Oscar-winning flip really feel like yesterday’s information.
So mesmerizing is the “Breaking Dangerous” star because the susceptible, unstable newscaster that there needs to be an insert within the Playbill: Please choose up your jaw earlier than leaving the theater.
If solely the remainder of the present was even half pretty much as good.
“Community” appeared far-fetched and outrageous in 1976, when Paddy Chayefsky’s darkish film masterpiece premiered. However that was years earlier than cable information and actuality TV. Today, Beale’s immortal line, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” sounds fully believable.
Nonetheless, it’s tough to replace a traditional, particularly one with such indelible performances. Howard’s greatest buddy, newsman Max Schumacher, and the take-no-prisoners programming govt, Diana Christensen, had been performed by William Holden and Faye Dunaway on the peak of their energy. Right here, they’ve gone to Tony Goldwyn (“Scandal”) and “Orphan Black” star Tatiana Maslany, each of them miscast and bland.
For the story to work, Diana must be irresistible, commanding and cutthroat, a ratings-obsessed vampire in a position to each captivate Max and encourage him to lament, “I’m unsure she’s able to any actual emotions.” Maslany’s Diana appears extra like only a pushy climber, whereas Goldwyn’s husky line readings are not any substitute for truly bringing gravity to the half.
Playwright Lee Corridor (“Billy Elliot”), hewing intently and at instances verbatim to Chayefsky’s screenplay, fails to rustle up any resonance or contemporary insights for in the present day’s period of pretend information. What he has carried out is create a showcase for Cranston, who nails his character’s craziness, knowledge and sincerity. He even steps off the stage at times to speak up some theatergoers.
In contrast with director Ivo van Hove’s earlier reinventions — the one-man meals combat in 2007 in “Misanthrope,” the rainstorm of blood in 2015 in “A View from the Bridge” — his staging right here feels standard. “Community” has video, Steadicams and projections of close-ups, however that’s hardly envelope-pushing in a narrative about TV.
Nonetheless, there are gimmicks. As a countdown clock ticks off seconds till showtime, the actors on stage do yoga (downward-facing stunt?), have their make-up utilized and chat amongst themselves. Their set is a smooth triptych, with an enormous display screen for streaming dwell video and commercials flanked by a glass-boxed management room on one finish and a working restaurant/bar on the opposite. Within the latter, referred to as Foodwork, 22 theatergoers who’ve paid anyplace from $299 to $399 a ticket dine on shrimp rolls and beef tenderloin, surrounded by the actors. Is Hove saying we eat information like leisure — or is he hoping for one more meals combat? In both case, except you’re sitting onstage consuming with them, it makes no actual influence.
It’s a disgrace. “Community” begins with a bang, as Cranston delivers certainly one of Howard’s unhinged dwell broadcasts, with everybody hustling round him like a single, one-celled organism. However when the main target veers from Howard to company doublespeak and a cliched melodrama — not less than because it’s performed right here — about an extramarital affair, it’s time to change channels.