Thursday, June 6, 2013
Nora Ephron's Lucky Guy
I've been half in love with Nora Ephron for many years now, even more so after reading I Feel Bad About My Neck. There's nothing like a book that causes you to flat out guffaw! I remember specifically that I was on the balcony of a cruise ship, doubled over with laughter. Later in the evening when we emerged from our room, the woman next door asked me what I was reading. It was one of those moments like the classic restaurant scene in When Harry Met Sally. She wanted what I was having.
I had read quite a bit of the back story related to Ms. Ephron's well received stage play about the journalist Mike McAlary but I really didn't know what to expect. The cost of a Broadway play nowadays is almost prohibitive and yet, sure enough, the matinee last Saturday was sold out, as was every other performance. And so, being the worrywart that I am, I figured the record sales could be attributed to the fact that a big time movie star, Tom Hanks, had the starring role.
What a joy to tell you that this play was formidably powerful beyond all my expectations and not simply because of Tom Hanks. No, it was the entire ensemble cast that worked seamlessly with each other. No egos were seen on stage. In fact, one of the most gripping performances can be credited to a five minute appearance by Stephen Tyrone Williams as Abner Louima, the young man who was beaten and sodomized by New York City's "finest" back in 1997.
Though McAlary had been ill and the victim of his own hubris in an ongoing battle for money, bouncing between The New York Daily News and The New York Post, though his reputation had been damaged by an article he'd written about a rape that didn't happen, he somehow had the courage to return to the fray, to interview Mr. Louima, to believe the victim, and to write the articles that busted the corruption within the New York police force wide open. He garnered a Pulitzer for his efforts. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/mike-mcalary-1997-pulitzer-prize-winning-abner-louima-columns-article-1.238109
Ms. Ephron's paean to the days when journalists were hard drinking, hard hitting idealists (though terribly lacking in a female presence) is equally long on humor and drama and it moves at a lightning pace. The staging, I'm not sure who gets credit for it, was phenomenal and dramatic. Using several large screens for a backdrop, playgoers were pulled into the reality of every incident with actual video of interviews with the police commissioner and other players and politicians.
And, of course, as we now all know, this play was Ms. Ephron's last piece of work, written as she was facing her own death. I couldn't help but wonder what she was thinking as she wrote the scenes of McAlary's final days and untimely death at the age of 41. Was it cathartic?
I'll tell you, not all the critics agree with me on this, though they're willing to give Hanks his props. I loved this show and the audience agreed. The standing ovation was spontaneous, not forced, and even the actors seemed taken aback by all the love sent their way. I've snoozed through way too many plays. Lucky Guy had me on the edge of my seat. Thank you Nora and crew.