Directed by James Bohnen
Produced by Remy Bumppo think theatre
At the Greenhouse Theatre, Chicago
Smart satire of British news media still resonates today.
Director James Bohnen has cast expertly to navigate Tom Stoppard’s 1978 satire of the British print media. With superb Australian, British and African accents under the guidance of dialect coach Doreen Feitelberg, Night and Day is a stinging attack on the role of newspapers (now the Internet blogs and cable news TV) in shaping news. Stoppard has his characters debate who controls the news and asks what news really is and should reporters simply cover events or should they create events? The role of editors and unions in the news process is also covered.
Stoppard, through his sharp dialogue, bites into the news dilemma in a fictional African country rich in minerals that is on the brink of civil war. The home of expatriate Geoffrey Carson (David Darlow) finds photographer George Guthrie (a fine turn by Jeff Cummings) reminiscing about Viet Nam and other hot spots he has covered with cynical Australian journalist Dick Wagner ( the smooth Shawn Douglas). Stoppard has these two, in a mixture of comic seriousness unique to him, argue, lament and plot to get ‘their’ story on the front page of a British weekly.
When Ruth Carson (Linda Gillum in a super-smart performance) greets Wagner, old sparks fly as Ruth both detests Wagner and most journalist. She has the most vicious and telling attacks on the triviality that dominates the press. The dialogue is brisk, funny and stinging as Stoppard arms this cast with witty and sharp comments and observations. He also has romantic interludes and African politics included in Night and Day.
When Jacob Milne (Greg Matthew Anderson in a winning performance), a young idealistic freelance reporter scoops the veteran Dick Wagner by getting a face-to-face interview with the rebel leader, the debate as to the role of non-union freelance reporters and the staff reporters ‘right’ to a story is in full swing. Milne is all about uncovering the political truth, Wagner is more interested in preserving his byline. While a tad dated, these arguments can easily be understood if we add the Internet and blogs to the mix. The passionate beliefs of these characters is contagious.
Stoppard blends his satire on the news media with a political suspense and an emerging sexual seduction by Ruth toward the baby-faced Jacob. Ruth finds Jacob’s monologue about the pure role of newspapers to inform and safeguard the essence of freedom both correct and sensual. Ruth’s asides to the audience garner humor but eventually become tiresome.
Shawn Douglas, Jeff Cummings and Greg Matthew Anderson offer strong nuanced performances. Linda Gillum is terrific as the intelligent, bored and under-sexed Ruth. Gillum mixes wit, comic timing and eroticism in a winning performance. Ernest Perry, Jr. powerfully plays the manipulative African leader.
Night and Day is an idea play filled with intelligent discourse spoken by well-rounded characters. It is though provoking and still relevant. Remy Bumppo’s tight production values include a fine set design by Tim Morrison with J.r. Lederle’s light and Jason Knox’s sound design. Stoppard fans will enjoy Night and Day.
At the Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln, Chicago, IL, call 773-404-7337, www.remybumppo.org, tickets $35 – $50, Wednesdays thru Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 2:30 pm, running time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission.