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Now Opening: ‘Network’ Starring Bryan Cranston on Broadway

Category Broadway

|by Ron Fassler |

Tune in to this immersive stage adaptation of the groundbreaking film

Though renowned as one of the great screenwriters of twentieth century film, Paddy Chayefsky began his career as a playwright. In the early 1950s, returning to his hometown of the Bronx, upon his release from service in World War II, there was little interest from anyone in producing his plays. So he turned to the budding medium of live television, where his original stories found a friendly outlet. Then, in 1953, his quiet tale of a self-confessed “ugly” middle-aged bachelor discovering his one true love in a shy and wallflower-ish schoolteacher broke through the noise and took America by storm. The morning after it premiered, everyone was talking about Marty. Not only was it an overnight phenomenon, but Marty also became the first TV production to be adapted from its 51-minute running time into a full-length motion picture. And in David vs. Goliath fashion, the small story was a gigantic success, with it winning both the 1955 Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d'Or and Academy Award honors for Best Picture (a combination no other movie has achieved since).

Emmy and Tony Winner Bryan Cranston has already received an Olivier Award for his performance in ‘Network’ (Photo: Jan Versweyveld)

Emmy and Tony Winner Bryan Cranston has already received an Olivier Award for his performance in ‘Network’ (Photo: Jan Versweyveld)

Now, 37 years after his death, Mr. Chayefsky is back on Broadway, with a theatrical version of his 1976 film Network, which made him the unprecedented recipient of a third Oscar as sole writer of a Best Screenplay Award. Starring Tony Award winner Bryan Cranston (All the Way) in the role of Howard Beale (which brought the late Peter Finch a posthumous Academy Award for Best Actor), the play has already been awarded honors for its initial West End run, where it opened last year. For his efforts there, Mr. Cranston returns to his native America with an Olivier Award for his performance, which he will be able to add to the four Emmys sitting on his shelf, won for his startling performance as Walter White over the six seasons of Breaking Bad.

In Chayefsky’s searing satire of the influential hold television had on its millions of viewers, the scene where network anchorman Howard Beale has an on-camera nervous breakdown still resonates today – 42 years later – when the character demands everyone within the sound of his voice get up and leave their TV sets, open a window and shout, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this anymore!” The electrifying sequence from the film is dramatically rethought by the director of this new stage production, Ivo Van Hove (Tony Award winner for his 2015 revival of Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge). Utilizing Steadicam cameras, the actors in Network are intrusively filmed throughout the entire evening; their stories broadcast on large screens. The audience is essentially seeing the play on television at the same time they are watching it happen live in front of them. And to add even more voyeurism to the mix, Van Hove has fixed it so that there are audience members on the stage watching the show as well – while eating dinner! All of this can be yours for an extra cost to your ticket (which includes the meal, naturally). Such an original and theatrical setting is designed to stimulate the eye and ear (and mind) of what continues to be an even more media-obsessed nation in 2018 than the one Chayefsky was writing about in 1976.

Joining Cranston for Network, opening December 6th at the Belasco Theatre, is Emmy Award winner Tatiana Maslany (Orphan Black), Tony Goldwn (Scandal) and in supporting roles Frank Wood (Tony Award winner for Side Man), Joshua Boone, Alyssa Bresnahan, Julian Elijah Martinez,  Ron Canada and Nick Wyman.

To call Network a visionary piece is putting it lightly. Not only has much of what Chayefsky preached come to pass, but it’s also deepened and darkened, becoming even more menacing. Wisely setting the play at the same time as the film, the knowingness of all that has transpired since the weirdly prophetic Chayefsky got most of it just about right is sure to be both eerie and chilling.

For more of the best of Broadway, check out our list of the Top Shows in New York in December 2018.  

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