Network: Don’t Go
Six of us saw Network tonight, the super hit starring Bryan Cranston in the play made from the Paddy Chayefsky movie that memorably starred Peter Finch. Cranston channels Finch in parts of the play, and in others looks creepily like George Bush. He gives a virtuoso performance that is overshadowed by the schlock all around him.
There is a single set of a newsroom during the two-hour, no-intermission performance. There is no scene change. Inexplicably, there is part of the audience seated stage left actually being served dinner. This is a Broadway conceit that has been useless every time I’ve seen it done, and it’s merely a distraction. There is also extensive projection used, provided by cast members actually shooting scene on stage with real cameras. But we don’t attend a Broadway play—especially at these staggering prices—to watch projection.
Aside from Cranston, there isn’t an actor of any skill in the entire ensemble. They walk from point to point, from blocking to blocking, merely reciting lines. They scream to portray emotion, another all-too-familiar stupid piece of directing that we often see in regional theater in Rhode Island. My son, who’s in the profession, told me that English is the director’s (Ivan Van Hove) third language. Apparently, he’s not very adept at it.
Everything outside of Cranston is merely filler. The acting is execrable, and the directing amateurish. There is a clever scene where a couple is shot in real time outside the theater, and another where a woman’s orgasm is caused not by the man she’s riding but rather by her recitation of her business victories to come. But that’s it.
At the end, after the curtain, there is an absolutely gratuitous montage of presidents taking the oath of office, and the theater audience, acting like lemmings, cheers Obama and boos Trump, which to me is the entire point of Network: being controlled by the media. No small irony there.
I would have preferred Cranston on stage doing a monologue. You could cut all the filler, reduce the time by a quarter, and reduce the costs of the enterprise without an absolutely worthless cast. But the show proves again that taste has surrendered to popularity in the theater. If someone says something is great, no one dares disagree. Put a star up there and they will come, and stand up, and applaud.
Go on cable and catch the movie. And save the price of these tickets to buy another car.