THE FARNSWORTH INVENTION on Broadway

For our birthdays, M and I went to New York. Or, more specifically, we went to stay with friends in Brooklyn, then with friends in Plainfield, NJ, with the occasional afternoon and evening in Manhattan.

Most of the trip was spent drinking bourbon and eating pizza from various parlors all claiming to be America’s best and staying up till the wee hours reminiscing about things we all did 10 years ago. But I was able to sneak off to see Aaron Sorkin’s THE FARNSWORTH INVENTION at the Magic Box.

fa.pngBefore I say anything about it, you should know that I was predestined to love this play. It’s a science play; I’m working on a science play. It’s about the early days of TV; I wrote a play about the early days of radio. It’s about the battle between RCA and Philo Farnsworth to control TV; my play was about the battle between RCA and Westinghouse to control radio. Heck, even my first job in San Francisco was about a block away from the place where Philo Farnsworth was inventing his Farnsworth Invention.

More importantly, I’m still a huge Sorkin fan. I know some people gave up on him after Studio 60, which was a great pilot that became a tiresome series. And one or two people I know lump Sorkin, Mamet, and Adam Rapp together into a group of “white dudes too easy to parody.”

But there’s something about the way Sorkin writes that just hits my ear right. His dialogue sparkles, with a rhythm that keeps bobbing and weaving and turning back on itself. He’s still theatrical, despite years of writing for film and TV. And he’s damn smart, refusing to dumb down his stuff. I dig him.

So it’s probably anti-climactic to say I loved the show. I liked the way he had Philo Farnsworth and David Sarnoff, the two main characters, narrate each other’s story. I liked how the scenes flowed seamlessly across time and space, from New York to San Francisco, with not much more than two tables and two chairs for scenery. And I really, really liked Hank Azaria and Jimmi Simpson. Damn good acting all around, but Simpson in particular was unbelievably amazing.

ph.pngI have no idea how a straight play with 19 actors set in 1928 about the invention of TV could possibly last very long on Broadway, so if you’re at all inclined, check it out quickly. It’s in previews now, opens in a few weeks, and who knows how long it will last.

On a side note, this was my first trip where I got to spend more than a few hours in Brooklyn. Holy crap, it’s awesome. I spent a tedious amount of time asking M why everyone isn’t spending every second of their lives in Brooklyn — until I remembered it’s even more ridiculously expensive than San Francisco. But boy, it sure is purty.

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