Theater Review: 'The Columnist' -- 2.5 stars
Joseph Alsop, a notorious and influential newspaper columnist from the mid-20th century, is now just a footnote in journalism history.
But in his career and personal life, playwright David Auburn ("Proof") has found more than enough scandal, sex and secrets to craft an intermittently engaging bio-drama focusing on Alsop's difficult personality, closeted sexuality and his unwavering support for the Vietnam War. John Lithgow plays Alsop.
In the first scene, a shirtless but dapper Alsop is in bed with a young Soviet male who is actually spying on him. He spends the remainder of Act One bragging to friends and family about his connections and talking up John F. Kennedy's political agenda.
He maintains awkward but tender relationships with his new wife (Margaret Colin), who is aware he is gay, his liberal stepdaughter (Grace Gummer) and his even-minded brother (Boyd Gaines), also a journalist.
Static and slow, the play would benefit from some reworking. Nevertheless, Dan Sullivan's detailed production benefits from an excellent cast of stage veterans. Lithgow fits easily in the role. He emphasizes Alsop's temperamental personality, which becomes increasingly fragile as he lives through the cultural changes of the 1960s.
If you go: "The Columnist" plays at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre through June 24. 261 W. 47th St., 212-239-6200, thecolumnistbroadway.com