By David Walters
A diamond in the rough.
The play Television, presented by Third Wing and running through April 22, is a bit choppy at times, tripping on its own feet and not yet finding its wings to soar. But with that said, there is a lot of gold to be had here among the alluvial deposits and it should not be overlooked.
The script (by playwright and director Cameron Darwin Bossert) is driving, imaginative, entertaining, and heartfelt. It tells the story of how a small television station in Colorado in 1959 lost its network affiliation as its antennae is smaller than the one in the next town over that can reach more households. Instead of folding, the manager, Wesley Harris (executively and steadfastly played by Arash Mokhtar), decides to be more in touch with the community (“This is really a wonderful place.”) and create local programming instead. He acquires short scripts from his neighbor, Billy Fitzwater, a college student studying psychology (Cian Genaro brings an appealing but brooding depth to the role), and hires local actors, his assistant Barry Seabright (the comic foil Bobby Underwood) and Billy’s aunt, Sandra Keefe (providing a suffer-no-fools intensity by Aprella Godfrey Barule) to perform the serial. It catches on and it seems they have something, becoming the topic and gossip of the town. In order to fill the airwaves, he also creates a talk show format for Lionel, the local postman that everyone loves (played with a justified reluctance in his new role by Wesli Spencer), and a cooking show for Billy’s mother who wants a piece of the action (very motherly played by Mary Monahan). As you may well imagine, the more the community gets exposed by media, the ugliness begins to surface and the once quaint, friendly small town, begins to un-fray. It all comes to a head with a father (Arnold Fitzwater, played with a quiet depth of character by stand-out Dikran Tulaine) and son confrontation that was riveting, touching, real in its execution, and ultimately the theme of the play, the choices we make in our lives and how those choices affect others.
As the fortunes of the station change due to a crashing crop-duster, we’ve found that we’ve grown fond of “Mrs. Fitzwater. Billy’s show. Lionel? The doctor? Mandy, the puppet lady? People love her. The… varsity basketball…? The makeup girl?” and they all become a little diminished from what they were prior to television fame.
What the play is aspiring to is a thought-provoking exploration of what is reality and how fickle it can be. Television is definitely worth a look.
Television, written and directed by Cameron Darwin Bossert. Presented by Thirdwing.
Through April 22nd at The Wild Project, 195 Third Avenue East, New York, NY.
Starring: Aprella Godfrey Barule, Cian Genaro, Arash Mokhtar, Mary Monahan, Wesli Spencer, Dikran Tulaine, and Bobby Underwood.
The production team includes Yolanda Balaña (costumes) Deeba Montazeri (music composition) and Lauren Arneson (stage manager).
Two hours with one fifteen-minute intermission. Tickets here.
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.