Oscar E Moore

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NETWORK – starring a brilliant Bryan Cranston

December 11th, 2018 by Oscar E Moore

I’m pleased as punch and I’d like to take in this production again and again – all the time wondering why it has taken so long for this theatrical jewel to arrive and wondering if Paddy Chayefsky had a crystal ball and wondering how satire became reality.

In 1976 Paddy Chayefsky’s original screenplay won an Oscar for NETWORK.   But ROCKY won Best Picture.  NETWORK deals with a fictional television network UBS and its struggle with poor ratings.  It was a satire.  They said this could never happen.

Lee Hall has adapted this eerie, frightening and pertinent production currently running at The Belasco Theatre.  It is impeccably directed by Ivo Van Hove who has turned the Belasco into a television studio, with monitors, large video screens and hand held cameras.  Close-up and personal.

There is the production control booth at one side and a small dining area on the other.  Why? Many have wondered.  Well, how do most of us watch the evening news?  Eating dinner, no?  Watching terrorists murder and blow up bodies and buildings as we swallow a piece of apple pie ala mode for dessert.

So much is going on that at times one doesn’t know where to look.  But Mr. Van Hove gets our focus back immediately.  And the outstanding portrayal of Mr. Cranston as the beleaguered newscaster as a man on the edge is unparalleled somewhat akin to the descent of King Lear.

Having been ousted after many years at UBS Howard Beale (Bryan Cranston) by his best friend and president of Network news Max Schumacher (Tony Goldwyn) he announces live on the broadcast that he is going to “blow his brains out” on live TV the following week.  Cut to commercial!

Ratings soar as Howard Beale slowly disintegrates on and off screen.   Sick of political lies and being manipulated, corporate bullshit, a decaying and demented world is enough to put him almost over the edge.  Watching all this is fascinating and frightening.

I expected audience members to rise up and shout out along with him as he rants his famous line “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”  Actually that happens a bit later when a newly revamped show by the treacherous Diane Christensen (Tatiana Maslany) has a warmup guy manipulating the audience into this rant-along.  Along with an “APPLAUSE” sign.  It’s a bit late for our audience members to realize that they are being manipulated.

Unfortunately Ms. Maslany is the very weak link – not the formidable foe that she should be – in this otherwise excellent cast.

The set and lighting design by Jan Versweyveld and video design by Tal Yarden are superb.  Tech rehearsal must have been fun.   Two hours without intermission.  See this disturbing and all too real production.

And please do not rush out after the curtain call.  There’s a bit more video.


Photos:  Jan Versweyveld

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