Friday, February 22, 2008

The Theater of Invention

February 22, 2008

When I first moved to Hoboken, early December to be exact, I began browsing the entertainment news to find out what shows on Broadway I might like to see that I could get at discount prices. I made a short list and am just getting around to checking off plays I shall see.

In the meantime my daughter has urged me to include my grandsons in the plans, and it seems like a capital idea. The oldest, Elias, turned 13 on December 23, and his mother, brother, he and I celebrated by attending an off-Broadway comedy I thought he might like. Later I took them to The Fantasticks, as reported here.

On that first list I had found The Farnsworth Invention, a play by Aaron Sorkin that I thought Elias and I both would find interesting. It's at The Music Box, a real Broadway theater. It's a straight drama with Hank Azaria in the cast.

Aaron Sorkin's information-crammed, surface-skimming biodrama about the creators of television suggests nothing so much as a classroom presentation on a seven-figure budget. The show — which follows the converging fortunes of Philo T. Farnsworth, a boy genius from Idaho, and David Sarnoff, a New York broadcasting czar born in Russia — is packed with the stuff of high drama: corporate espionage, the death of a child, the Wall Street crash, village-burning Cossacks, even the sinking of the Titanic and a slew of those eureka moments you associate with easy-reading biographies about scientific discoveries. And yet you’re likely to leave “The Farnsworth Invention” feeling that you have just watched an animated Wikipedia entry, fleshed out with the sort of anecdotal scenes that figure in “re-enactments” on E! channel documentaries and true-crime shows. -- Ben Brantley

Even though not unconditionally admired by sophisticated New York critics, this one might be just the thing for Elias, a serious boy with a flair for the comedic. He'll take the bus from Kingston -- a first for him -- and I'll be at Port Authority Bus Terminal waiting. The bus should get in about 12:30 so we'll have time for lunch at a theater-district place (I'm going to suggest Junior's) before the show and then take the bus home to Hoboken afterwards.

I'll introduce him to Hoboken that evening and the next morning, and then we'll take the bus back to Port Authority and I'll see him off to Kingston. If all goes well this may be the first of many wonderful weekends together -- and his brother Andy, age 10, will soon be ready for the same treatment.

Needless to say, I'm over the moon about tomorrow. The thing is that snow is pouring down, beautiful thick snow, piling on the streets, sidewalks, and everything that will stand still long enough. It's supposed to continue until it turns to rain at some point tomorrow. This doesn't stop things, but it changes them. I have to allow more time for the bus to Port Authority; it may be too nasty to trudge around the streets of Times Square; it may be too cold to enjoy wandering around Hoboken.

But it just may be one of the best weekends of my life.


Anonymous said...

Saw Farnsworth last weekend! It's brilliant! You're in for a treat.

Mary Lois said...

I know it. Check back here Sunday or Monday for a full report.