Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Farnsworth Invention (The Music Box)

BOTTOM LINE: See this Show! For my money, it's the best new play on Broadway and you can't go wrong with $26.50 student rush tickets.

I'm going to get right to the point. I absolutely loved this play. It is one of the best-written plays that I've seen or read in a very long time. The premise is simple: two men from very different political, religious, and economic backgrounds race to see who will be credited with the invention of the modern television, and therefore hold the patent and be able to make millions spreading information and entertainment to the masses. But what is really interesting is the way Aaron Sorkin crafts a story narrated by David Sarnoff, a big-time New York executive-played by Hank Azaria of The Simpsons and Mad About You fame, and Philo Farnsworth, a small-town farmer from Idaho, which flows seamlessly from the 1920s until Man's first walk on the Moon. The action switches back and forth between the two men's lives as they each comment not only on the action in their own story but chime in their two cents on what is going on in the world of their adversary's life as well. The result is quite interesting and adds a really interesting level to what otherwise could have been a pretty dull story.

Let's be honest. I've never been really impressed with the work that Aaron Sorkin did as the writer and creator of The West Wing, but I really dug his writing on the recently canceled Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and Charlie Wilson's War which is now in movie theatres. In my opinion, he is doing his best work right now as is evident with The Farnsworth Invention. It's great to see Mr. Sorkin getting back to his theatrical roots where he had previous success with his first Broadway play, A Few Good Men, made famous by the film version starring Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson, and Demi Moore.

The only negative things that I have heard or read about this play is that it felt a little like a High School history report, which I feel could not be further from the truth. Yes. It is a historical dramedy, but it's highly entertaining and is a story that I think anyone who has ever gotten any pleasure out of watching a television should be required to see. I actually felt bad that I'd never though about what went into the creation of a device that is such a huge part of all of our every day lives. As you can probably guess, I can't really say enough positive things about this play. You should run to see it right now. In Farnsworth, I found myself laughing out loud more times than I expected and truly moved by what both these men went through in search of their American Dream. At one moment, I was nearly moved to tears from a moment of pure joy on stage, so kudos to director Des McAnuff, who also directed the Tony Winning Jersey Boys, for a job well done. The cast is great and Hank Azaria is pretty amazing. For those of you not familiar with his dramatic work, I know you will be very impressed. There's been a lot of hype surrounding another drama also playing on 45th Street, but I think that Farnsworth is a much more fulfilling night at the theatre. You will laugh, you might cry, and with a running time of just about two hours including intermission, the time will really fly by.

(The Farnsworth Invention plays at The Music Box Theatre at 239 W 45th Street. Performances Tuesday at 7pm, Wednesday - Saturday at 8pm, Wednesday and Saturday at 2pm, and Sunday at 3pm. Tickets available by calling 212-239-6200 or at the box office.

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