I saw *Network* on Broadway on 11/11/18. I’ve been a fan of the movie for ages and was excited to see that a stage adaptation was being done in London last year, directed by my favorite director, Belgian weirdo Ivo van Hove, starring Bryan Cranston in the Peter Finch role and Michelle Dockery in the Faye Dunaway role. I didn’t think to say a prayer that the show would transfer to Broadway because so few of those sorts of prayers get answered, but it DID come to Broadway. With van Hove at the helm again, and Cranston in the central role and Tatiana Maslany in the Faye Dunaway role. I think Michelle Dockery is busy with the *Downton Abbey* movie, and I certainly don’t want to stand in the way of that!
I told my friend Nicola about the movie a few days before. I used the word “polemical” and just looked it up to confirm it was the right word:
Polemical: relating to or involving strongly critical, controversial, or disputatious writing or speech.
Oh yes, that’s the right word! The movie is loud, fast, tense, and preachy. I’ll also add the word “prescient,” because the movie predicts the dawn of reality TV and the insane cult of personality, also a world in which 1% of the people have 95% of the money (please check my numbers) and a handful of corporations control everything. I hope that day seemed far off when Paddy Chayefsky wrote the movie in the 70s, but wow, it sure has arrived.
Tony Goldwyn was about ten to twenty years too young for the William Holden role. I guess at 58 Goldwyn is officially middle-aged, but he’s not exactly staring death in the face like Holden was. This time I checked my own math: shocker of shockers, Holden was the same age! He certainly LOOKED ten to twenty years older than that.
I know Maslany from *Orphan Black* - - I watched the first two seasons and then lost interest. Her performance on that show was impressive, and I was excited to see her onstage. She’s got verve and chops and isn’t afraid to go over the top. She delivered.
Cranston was, of course, magnificent. About twenty years ago I was getting a little tired of Al Pacino and said that he was always doing The Al Pacino Show. Cranston has a little bit of that, and honestly, The Bryan Cranston Show has a lot in common with The Al Pacino Show. But hey, both shows are very entertaining! The biggest treasure of Cranston’s performance was his ability to inject a little charm into a character that’s essentially a screaming prophet. Cranston shaded his performance more than Finch in the movie, and that made the show a lot more effective and fun.
I’ve seen quite a few shows directed by Ivo van Hove, and like I said, he’s my favorite director. He always does something original and completely theatrical. Most surprising of all, he always uses my three bullet point pet peeves of the theatre, but he uses them with such skill that they don’t bother me:
Van Hove has a tendency to use too much music. He used a lot in this show, but it was well chosen and not too loud or invasive.
MAKE A MESS
There was just one brief moment of Make a Mess. Thank God.
Van Hove is the master of using video to heighten the drama and draw the audience in. This show had a huge screen at the back of the stage, sometimes showing a close-up of a couple actors in a corner, sometimes showing something happening elsewhere (like the amusing scene that he staged outside on the sidewalk, with actual, live passersby), or sometimes blank, or showing a test pattern. The final <<coup de theatre>> of the show used the video element in a breathtaking, shocking way. I don’t want to give a spoiler, so please email me if you want me to describe it to you.
This Youtube video is about the use of video in the London production, but it's pretty much the same in the Broadway production. Fascinating.