Full speed ahead! And the pace never lets up in this respectful yet disappointing expose of tabloid journalism by Nora Ephron circa 1985. We are barraged by the cast with short, loud machine gun blasts of narrative spiked with profanity while beer and whiskey are devoured by the almost all male cast who portray the cronies of one Mike McAlary – ace reporter for The Daily News and The Post (ping ponging back and forth between the two) and Newsday where he started as a cop reporter in this bio-drama with some really funny lines that show off a sharp wit – Ephron’s trademark – but nary enough to call LUCKY GUY entertaining. Headache inducing is more like it.
As brave as Mike McAlary was to take on the New York City Police Department Tom Hanks is equally brave to take on Broadway – and they were and are successful up to a point.
Hanks is Hanks – wisely charming the audience from the outset as the real McAlary wasn’t such a great guy. A guy with an enormous ego who loved the spotlight and was hungry for fame and his own column. A guy who had connections, and sources, and the gift of gab that got people to open up to him.
Not considered a great writer he eventually got a Pulitzer for his prose regarding the sodomizing by a couple of cops of Abner Louima (Stephen Tyrone Williams) in an all too brief scene that captures our interest where most of the other rapid fire and jarring short scenes do not.
Despite the heroic efforts of director George C. Wolfe (projections, actual news footage, a smoke machine to fill the stage with the ubiquitous cigarettes used, desks and chairs on wheels and some excellent casting in all the supporting roles) to make LUCKY GUY palatable it just doesn’t do it.
There’s the Tylenol case. The Mafia. Crack. The Fake Rape Scandal – where we get definitive definitions of sperm and semen. The aforementioned Abner Louima. Jimmy Breslin – who is merely mentioned – now there was real drama between those two. His rocky marriage to Alice (a grounded and sympathetic Maura Tierney) – all hit upon briefly. Told. Not shown for the most part.
There’s his lawyer, Eddie Hayes (Christopher McDonald) who sells him his first unaffordable house and then manages to get him raise after raise when others thought he was over rated and over paid.
Act II fares better as we get to delve deeper into his life after a near fatal accident. But his recovery is as fast paced as the rest of the show until he is diagnosed with the cancer that killed him at age 41. The morphine drip scene is a highlight if one could call a morphine drip scene such.
With such a boisterous barrage of words, not many of them register as well as they should.
Deirdre Lovejoy is outstanding as sewer mouth reporter Louise Imerman and then as Debby Krenek – Chief Editor of The Daily News who has a tough decision to make. Yours is whether you want to see Tom Hanks, Hollywood A-list star live in his Broadway debut doing what he does best or not to sit through a grueling speed through reading of LUCKY GUY.
At the Broadhurst Theatre. www.luckyguyplay.com Photos: Joan Marcus
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