A play by Aaron Sorkin is a thing of joy. I’ve been a fan of his (TV) scripts since his spunky, outrageous SPORTS NIGHT. Who better to write about the invention of television than its best writer today! Director Sarah Gazdowicz’ fluid, downright exhilarating production of THE FARNSWORTH INVENTION for Flat Earth Theatre (through June 27th) is a must see: For Sorkin’s smart, sardonic dialogue, for the lively ensemble work and for the two performances that keep this speeding train on track.
What’s remarkable about the script is that we know the outcome and yet we’re riveted nevertheless. (I saw a sharp witted play about Edison and Tesla years ago and you still rooted for the underdog even though you knew who won that fight. Same deal for a lovely Edward G. Robinson movie about the telegraph supplanting Robinson’s beloved homing pigeons. It’s a delightful way to learn history.)
You can’t take your eyes off Michael Fisher as the ruthless David Sarnoff, the founder of NBC and you can’t stop your heart from breaking when you know the much nicer Farnsworth (Chris Larson) will be run over by Sarnoff’s machinations. Where Fisher has electricity in his veins, Larson has that Jimmy Stewart “Aw Shucks” inner glow working for him.
The ensemble acts the heck out of the script—which is especially difficult for the women in the company who play the supportive mother, sister and wives roles. They manage to give these usually thankless parts their best shot, adding considerable personality. Of course it’s the male wheelers and dealers who are the most fun to watch, like Dale J. Young in several unforgettable turns (as villains and heroes).
Kudos to Rebecca Lehrhoff for an ingenious blackboard set where you actually learn and understand the cathode ray! I haven’t been so excited about a production since a play about Alan Turing and his enigma machine.