Interview with fellow cast member Rob Riley about The Front Page
Jeff Awards - Eric & Andy Preshow Interviews
Wall Street Journal Review: The Front Page -
What is most striking about TimeLine’s production, directed with lip-smacking gusto by Nick Bowling, is that it doesn’t sandpaper the rough edges of the reporters who wait impatiently to cover the hanging of a small-time anarchist (Rob Fagin). They are brutes who make no effort to hide their brutality, and they care about nothing but getting the story, least of all the bruised feelings of the anarchist’s girlfriend (Mechelle Moe), whom they treat like gum on the sole of a worn-out shoe. The contrast between the savage cynicism with which the reporters are portrayed and the comic dynamism of the play’s door-slamming plot is startlingly modern, as are the play’s overlapping dialogue (which Hawks borrowed for “His Girl Friday”) and blunt language.
Life of a Beggar -
It’s Labor Day weekend, and while most Chicagoans are planning their last summer escape, director Sean Graney is wrapping up an 80-hour week preparing for The Hypocrites opening of Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera at the Steppenwolf Theatre’s Garage (running though Oct. 12). Admittedly, he confides that this is not the best time to interview him. There is a great deal of pressure, and with this being his first venture into musicals, expectations are running high. Graney’s mind is engulfed by the play, which focuses on the life of the underpaid and underfed, which perhaps explains why economics are weighing so heavily on his mind these days.
I had just turned 23 when I first met Sean Graney. We were both just out of school and pretty poor. He used to skateboard alongside my bike, and we had a bad habit spending our paychecks on one too many PBR’s at the L&L Tavern. We rehearsed in cramped living rooms, had late-night meetings at dirty, vegetarian restaurants and performed in basements filled with broken down couches. We talked a lot. We yelled more. It was mostly about our no-money theater company.
JEFF AWARD NOMINEE 2011 - ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE -
ACTRESS IN A PRINCIPAL ROLE – PLAY
Brenda Barrie (Eva/Brenda) - “Memory” - BackStage Theatre Company
Mechelle Moe (Terry Randall) - “Stage Door” - Griffin Theatre Company
Caroline Neff (Charlotte) - “A Brief History of Helen of Troy” Steep Theatre Company
Caroline Neff (Rachel) - “Port” - Griffin Theatre Company
Joy Thorbjornsen- Coates (Fonsia Dorsey) - “The Gin Game” - Lincoln Square Theatre
Nicole Wiesner (Marie) - “The First Ladies” - Trap Door Theatre
Complete List of Jeff Nominations for 2011
THE FRONT PAGE Publicity Photos Hildy Johnson (PJ Powers, right) and Mollie Malloy (Mechelle Moe, left) are determined to hide escaped convict Earl Williams (Rob Fagin, center) before he can be discovered by the police.
THEATER REVIEW ‘The Front Page’ ★★★ Through June 12 at TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington Ave.; running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes; tickets: $28-$38 at 773-281-8463 or timelinetheatre.com
Comedy always thrives on confidence, and scribes Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur caught Chicago newspaper men when they felt like regal untouchables. Cops? Sandwich-delivery guys in uniform. Chicago mayor? Illinois governor? Insecure and impotent without the right headlines. Sheriff? An object of endless abuse. Editors? Totally dependent on the fellow sniffing out the news.
Taking a job at The New York Times? Akin to turning in your masculinity and “working in a bank.” In a “rube town.” That, in the world of “The Front Page,” meant pretty much any place other than Chicago.
Nope, these “crummy hobos full of dandruff and bum gin” would no more jettison their lives inside the pulsing press room of the Criminal Courts Building — the heaving epicenter of the endless human story that was Chicago in 1928 — than they would show up home for dinner more than two times in a month. Their raison d’etre might sound prosaic, but this was the golden age of the power and influence of the retail American voter, a newly massively expanded demographic, as this script frequently and tellingly takes note with its sexist digs and chatter about “the colored vote.” With the rising power of voters came the rising power of newspapers, their main source of information as to whom to reward and whom to punish. In Hecht and MacArthur’s minds, there was no greater position to be had than telling a million “hired girls and motormen’s wives” what was going on in their exploding town.
For those of us who work for newspapers in a more challenging era, who toil for corporations rather than solo editors like Walter Burns, “The Front Page” is a bittersweet experience. Of course, one should not assume that Hecht and MacArthur were telling anything close to the truth. They were newspaper romantics glorifying their kind. For all its vaunted veracity, “The Front Page” was never a clear-eyed picture of this town or this business, but when you watch it play out in front of you, 83 years later, it still feels far closer to the human heartbeat than, say, The Huffington Post.
And thus it is a pleasure to see “The Front Page,” that zesty yarn of hacks, scoops and screwball derring-do, back up in Chicago in a very solid, fast-paced and entertaining production at the TimeLine Theatre featuring a huge cast. With the help of an immersive design from Collette Pollard, director Nick Bowling has cast a motley crew of journalistic-type characters, ranging from the deliciously effete Mark Richard (playing, of course, the man from the Tribune) to the droll Larry Baldacci (as the man from the Daily News) to Mike McNamara (the Post). The weasel-like Bill McGough takes amusing licks as Sheriff Hartman, while Rob Riley offers a very savvy turn as The Mayor, a Chicago type (only the names change) that has proved considerably more resilient than hot type.
In this man’s world, Bridgette Pechman Clarno thrives in the thankless role of the fiancee of Hildy Johnson (PJ Powers), the ace Herald Examiner reporter on the cusp of getting married and going soft for good.
The life force of this particular production is not so much Powers’ Hildy as it is Terry Hamilton as Walter Burns, that conniving editor who knows that once you have a good newspaperman in your stable, you don’t ever let him out. Powers plays Hildy as a flustered man caught in an irreconcilable tussle between editor and lover. He shows us amusing and human panic when he realizes he can’t please both at once. But he struggles more with the other, mercurial side of Hildy — the crucial edge and drive that make him a pea in a pod with editor Burns. “The Front Page” is a comedy, and this production has plenty of laughs, but it could show us yet more of the naked souls and vicious competition on display.
Still, once the terrific Hamilton shows up in the press room, the show belatedly starts to fire on every cylinder. Hamilton knows how to take the center of the room and make all the pieces around him whir — he’s at once ruthless and affectionate, the kind of surrogate dad who can get blood from a stone, in the grand Chicago newspaper tradition of such inhuman extractions