Nancy and I went to see a preview of Lucky Guy last Thursday at the Broadhurst Theatre, and Iam very pleased to say we thoroughly enjoyed it! Opening Night is tomorrow, 1 April Monday. Lucky Guy was written by Nora Ephron (there was an interesting piece, “Nora Ephron’s Final Act,” by her son, Jacob Bernstein, in the NY Times Sunday Magazine on10 March, describing the process of her writing Lucky Guy, and discussing the relationship between her illness and death and those of the play’s main character) and wonderfully directed by George Wolfe. The play is about Mike McAlary (played by Tom Hanks), the police reporter turned columnist who mostly worked at the New York Daily News (although he did stints at the New York Post, and New York Newsday; and in the show one gets a wonderful sense of how—and why—he bounced back and forth between these tabloids over the course of his career.)
McAlary was a rather amazing character, who broke several major stories—including, near the end of his life, the Abner Louima police brutality case, for which he won a Pulitzer. There was a wonderful article, “From Tabloid Myth to Opening Night,” in today’s NY Times by Jim Dwyer, who worked with McAlary at several of his gigs (and appears as a character in this play). It captures the sense of this wild, ambitious, dedicated man—and contains pictures of many of the actors in the play alongside the reporters they are portraying. (Unlike Dwyer, McAlary never came anywhere near the NY Times: there is one single very funny mention of the Times in the opening moments of Lucky Guy by way of explaining what a tabloid is—and isn’t.)
The cast of the play is full of wonderful actors, mostly playing actual newspaper men: Courtney Vance, who plays Hap Hairston; Peter Gerety, who plays John Cotter; Christopher McDonald, who plays Eddie Hayes; Peter Scolari, who plays Michael Daly; Michael Gaston, who plays Jim Dwyer; and Maura Tierney, who plays Alice, McAlary’s wife—to name a few. I must confess that I was apprehensive about whether Tom Hanks could carry off this role; but he acquitted himself quite well—albeit not at quitethe level of most of this great ensemble cast. The entire ensemble is completely successful in creating the energy of the tabloid newsrooms, and they move the play forward with humor and emotion, vitality and meaning. And while Hanks may not be totally successful in capturing the character that McAlary actually was, he does create a reasonable facsimile.
David Rockwell’s minimalist sets are fabulous: with small but incredibly intense and powerful spatial gestures—utilizing amazingly accurate details—David has created a perfect newsroom environment. (All my journalist friends have reacted with particular strength to how well the sets embody the feel of the newsrooms they have known over their careers.) His scenery does much to add to the vitality of what is occurring in the space he has created
The play as a whole may not be high art; but it is entertaining and interesting. I am not really a Nora Ephron fan, and I was not expecting to like this play; but I was pleasantly surprised. I am not really a fan of Tom Hanks (except in his early movies like Big and Splash), and expected him to be terrible on stage; but he did fine with this role. In addition to the excellent cast and David Rockwell’s great sets, much credit must go to George Wolfe whose novel and creative direction deserves much of the credit for making Lucky Guy the fast-paced, effective piece of drama it is.
Lucky Guy is engaging; it is at times powerful; it is, throughout, a fascinating window into the life of the tabloid newsroom…and it is fun!