March 18, 2007

Tuning into "Talk Radio"

The evening my friend Bill and I went to see the new revival of Talk Radio didn’t get off to a great start. Or maybe, given the pugnacious nature of the show, it did. Bill, one of the gentlest and most gracious people you’ll ever want to meet, got into a fight about our reservation with the manager at La Masseria, which had become one of our favorite places to eat in the theater district. By the time I got there Bill was standing outside fuming. We went around the corner to have dinner but later we watched Talk Radio's star Liev Schreiber fume for most of the 100 or so intermission-less minutes he was on stage at the Longacre Theatre. I didn’t see the original production of Eric Bogosian’s drama about a night in the life of an acerbic talk radio show host when it played at the Public Theater in 1987. And I didn’t much like Oliver Stone’s film version that came out in 1988. But I was looking forward to this Broadway production because I love Liev Schreiber.

I had just seen Schreiber’s younger half-brother Pablo in Dying City and I was beginning to feel as though I were practically part of the family. And who wouldn't want to be part of such an extremely talented family. No one else today dominates a stage the way Liev does. Although there are other actors onstage (and off, giving voice to the callers) Talk Radio has always been primarily a one-man show but Schreiber stood out even in the magnificent ensemble of actors who appeared in the 2005 revival of Glengarry Glen Ross and he won a Tony for it.

In the old days, there were actors like Lynn Fontanne and Alfred Lunt, Helen Hayes and Robert Preston, who did occasional screen work but made their names as stage stars, Broadway stars. The movies and later TV never seemed able to project the full radiance of their performances. Schreiber has worked on both sides of the camera, acting in the remake of the Manchurian Candidate alongside Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep, co-starring in The Painted Veil with Edward Norton and Naomi Watts (with whom Schreiber is now expecting a child), producing and directing the film version of the comic novel Everything is Illuminated and even doing a recent four-part turn on the hit CBS crime series CSI. But he always seems most at home on stage.

I didn’t like this production of Talk Radio any more than I liked the movie. But watching Schreiber made the evening worthwhile. Like Jennifer Ehle and Brian F. O’Byrne, currently onstage in Tom Stoppard's Coast of Utopia trilogy, Schreiber is a true Broadway star and seeing him in his element is for me always time well spent.


Anonymous said...

A real good name for a Blog. 'Broadway and Me'.....hmmm.

Anonymous said...

I loved Glengarry Glen Ross. And it was fun to be reminded that Liev was in it.

I'm disappointed that Talk Radio didn't work. Oh well... look forward to reading more and hearing what does!

Anonymous said...

Schreiber often seems to me like he's just visiting from another world. Very powerful.

Anonymous said...

Slightly OT: Like your friend Bill, I had a frustrating set-to with the folks who run La Masseria. When I showed up, they didn't have a record of my reservation. Two of the people at the desk were helpful, but the third (seemingly the boss) kept making remarks about "people who show up PRETENDING to have reservations." After the fourth or fifth such remark, I asked him to drop that line, as it seemed to suggest that I was one of those people. But he kept it up. So I told the staffers who were graciously looking to find me a table to Forget It and I walked out.
Though Masseria was noisy and crowded, the food was good and reasonably priced. I'll miss it. Have any alternatives to Orso, Joe Allen's, Angus's and Thalia?