Wednesday, March 13, 2013

by Janet Lawler
March 13, 2013
New York
Lucky Guy on Broadway
 Nora Ephron's final play LUCKY GUY is in previews on Broadway.  It stars Tom Hanks. 

It's a terrific play.  It's about New York columnist Mike McAlary and his cohorts in various NYC newsrooms as he climbs to the top in a tough-as-nails city.  It's a witty tale about tabloids, marriage, Irish pubs, good cops, bad cops and the grit of making your living and name in NYC between 1985-1998. 

The play even has some singing, but it's definitely not a musical.  And since it's about the newspaper biz in its golden days, it's got men (and one woman) who swear like sailors, smoke cigarettes at their desks while banging out a story on deadline and they all congregate at the local bar.

Tom Hanks is charming in a not so likeable part.  On stage, it's hard to take your eyes off him just like on screen.  His cadence is so familiar -- and in one particular scene, while in physical therapy recovering from a car crash -- he talks a lot like Forest Gump.

The entire cast is top notch.  Maura Tierney, best known for ER, plays Hanks' wife and has an opening scene where she pretends to be a train conductor on the Long Island Railroad rattling off all the local stops... it's hilarious... and the audience, packed with Long Islanders, gave her a round of applause... especially for the way she pronounced Ronkonkoma.

Director George C. Wolfe's creates excitement through pacing and quick changing sets from newsroom, to Long Island bedroom to the local bar.  

Nora Ephron's writing crackles.  Her wit and timing with a joke rarely miss.  It's not jokes for joke sake, but makes you laugh with its truth.  She knew about journalism.  Before her movie career, Ephron wrote for the New York Post.  Her first husband was Carl Bernstein, a reporter who helped topple a U.S. president.

There are tough scenes to watch capturing the brutality NYC city can dish out... along with facing aging and disease.  It's also about cancer.  Nora Ephron knew what she was writing about... the lines Mike McAlary delivers at the end have that much more meaning because now we know the author was facing her own battle with cancer.

The play reminds us that life is so damn fragile -- as are fame and big egos.  New York City will build you up and tear you down like no other town.   That's a fact, as they say in the newspaper biz.

On a lighter note, the cast reunites Hanks with his Bosom Buddies co-star Peter Scolari.  It's great to see them together.  And actor Courtney B. Vance as Hanks' newspaper editor deserves a special shout out for a super performance.  He has some of the best lines in the play.

Playwright Nora Ephron
 In a recent NY Times article by Jacob Bernstein, Nora's son, he said that while his mother lay dying in the hospital, she had a vision that her last play was on Broadway and she saw a filled theater.

Her vision came true.  Every seat was sold out.  Yes, many came to see Tom Hanks on stage -- but most were there to pay tribute to Nora Ephron.   

Go see Lucky Guy if you can. 

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