Theater review: ‘The Columnist’

John Lithgow is "The Columnist," now running through June 24.

“The Columnist,” which opened tonight, examines the life of political writer Joseph Alsop (John Lithgow) who held court among the elite of Washington, D.C., in the 1960s. Revered and feared, Alsop used his syndicated column to chronicle and opine upon the quickly changing nation, from its global position to the intimacies of the White House.

While “Mad Men” offers an intuitive, urbane outlook on America’s mid-century shift, this show lifts its nose to sniff out how those at the top are the farthest out of touch with it (a theme that’s relevant today). For the most part, it subtly traces the underpinnings of that era one in which a man confident enough to tell others exactly what to think could become both a pillar and pariah in the space of the same decade. Then again, it sometimes veers toward heavy-handedness; for example, take Alsop’s pas de deux with teen daughter Abigail (Grace Gummer), a rote representative of the rising youth movement who undermines his authority with short skirts, long hair and concern for the proletariat.

Lithgow’s Alsop is an unyielding man who is universally popular on paper yet lacks lovers or friends. He has the president’s direct line, but keeps at bay his own business partner-cum-brother (Boyd Gaines). And then there’s the woman he marries (Margaret Colin) to be the missing set-piece in his stiffly appointed home well that, and so the world won’t know he’s gay (this is overt but unutterable, getting no further than “I’m … ” and “He’s like us,” which is important in a play about the strength of words). If Alsop speaks to those dearest to him with either too much calculation or too little concern, how can they take it personally? The internal and external pressures he both places and perceives upon himself would keep any man uptight yet also, through it all, upright. Ultimately, David Auburn’s portrait of this flawed titan is as much a fluid puzzle as the pinwheel set that smacks positively of scenic designer John Lee Beatty and director Daniel Sullivan. It moves unbidden around Alsop as does the world at large, a fact that he’s forced to reconcile throughout “The Columnist.”

‘The Columnist’
Through June 24
Samuel J. Friedman Theatre
261 W. 47th Street
$67-$121
www.thecolumnistbroadway.com


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

News

Mets mascot Mr. Met target of Bill Clinton…

Mets mascot Mr. Met has told how he ended up in the crosshairs of a Secret Service sniper rifle. The man behind the Mr. Met…

International

Jews in eastern Ukraine ordered to register, Kerry…

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned reports that Jews in eastern Ukraine had been ordered to register with the authorities "or suffer the consequences."

National

Chelsea Clinton pregnant with first child

Chelsea Clinton is pregnant with her first child.

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

Movies

Review: 'Transcendence' is not stupid but sometimes lacks…

The cyberthriller "Transcendence" explores artificial intelligence, nanotechnology and other ethical quandaries, but has too much ambition, if anything.

Television

Dick Wolf to bring fictionalized world of 'Law…

A&E has ordered a pilot called "D.O.A." from "Law and Order" mastermind Dick Wolf that will focus on real detectives reexamining cold cases. A trio…

Television

Shane West talks WGN America's 'Salem'

The actor on history lessons, a new network and showing his butt.

NHL

Rangers draw first blood against Flyers in Game…

Brad Richards and Derek Stepan scored power-play goals 47 seconds apart to lead the Rangers to a 4-1 win.

NBA

Carmelo Anthony agonizing over Knicks future as season…

There’s still the cloud hanging over the franchise’s head as to the pending free-agent status of All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony.

NFL

Jets host players with eye toward NFL Draft

The Jets hosted a number of NFL Draft hopefuls for workouts on Thursday, with an eye toward some under-the-radar players.

NFL

Chris Johnson: I wanted to go to 'a…

Now that Chris Johnson is a Jet, the team has to figure out if one of the most explosive players in the NFL over the last half decade has anything…

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.

Travel

Earth Day travel in the Florida Keys

See why this eco-friendly destination deserves your attention.

Tech

Sorry, Facebook — FarmVille goes mobile with 'Country…

Zynga has released a version of the hit "FarmVille" tailored for smartphones and tablets in the hope of reaping a bumper crop of players.