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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
LUCKY GUY
at the Broadhurst

MAKING HEADLINES
By JESSICA BRANCH

  Peter Gerety and Tom Hanks/ Ph: Joan Marcus

This show’s got everything going for it. It was the late, lamented Nora Ephron’s last project. It’s the vehicle for the ever-lovable Tom Hanks’ Broadway debut. As well as a biopic homage to headline-writing hero Mike McAlary, it’s also a love letter to the tabloid journalism of the 80s and 90s, so it’s full of larger-than-life New Yorkers, stories ripped from the headlines, moral outrage, lurid details, heavy drinking and even heavier swearing. How could it not be a winner? Well, because luck isn’t everything.
 
As the story starts, we’re at an Irish wake, but the mournful singing soon gives way to memories of Mike and his meteoric rise in the foulmouthed hustle and bustle of the tabloid newsroom, where the scene eventually drifts (the fantastically functional set is designed by David Rockwell). Aided by other reporters, veteran editor Hap Hairston (Courtney B. Vance) begins telling the story of “lucky guy” Mike McAlary, the renowned tabloid reporter who eventually broke the Abner Louima case, to Pulitzer Prize-winning effect. But in the beginning, he’s just an ambitious reporter, pounding his beat in Queens, but desperate to get a break in the big-time – Manhattan. In time he does – by dint of being in the newsroom when the right assignment comes in – and he makes good. But Mike’s not just an eager beaver; he’s a good guy, and the other reporters, including the F-bomb queen Louise (a memorable Deirdre Lovejoy), can’t help but like him. Nor can the audience, as he switches back and forth between Post and News and Newsday, getting richer, getting a big house out in the burbs, and maybe getting a little big for his britches.
 
Though Mike is a limited, almost one-note role, Hanks is great in it. Genuinely warm and outgoing, passionate in pursuit of a story, and affable as all get out, he embodies the kind of guy the script and countless characters tell us McAlary was. Problem is, the part’s not really written with any depth. Even the occasional hints of possible mixed motives (is Mike reporting for the greater good or just for his own glory?) and the five minutes or so when McAlary’s verging on losing his likeability are things we’re told are happening, not things Hanks has much of any chance to portray. In the second act, as McAlary is struck by illness and comes to appreciate all he’s been given, Hanks plays what he’s given beautifully, making McAlary in adversity even more likable than the hungry youngster; but there’s not much in the way of inner man here for him to sink his teeth into. Lucky Guy gives us the lurid details of McAlary’s life, and even the conflicting reports as his friends and family weigh in, but, as with most tabloid stories, all the melodrama doesn’t add up to a real man.
 
Directed by George C. Wolfe, the staging is smart, fast-paced, and full of incidental flash to match the verbal wit and wisecracks. Christopher McDonald as Eddie Hayes, the high-stakes lawyer who sells McAlary his house and starts finagling his financials, gets – and makes the most of – his fair share of one-liners, while Maura Tierney as McAlary’s wry, resigned wife, brings a real spark to her part. But for all the tough talking in the newsroom and the dashing about for deadlines, the play lacks a compelling storyline. No matter how much we like McAlary, there just doesn’t seem to be much there, and the play never manages to convince us that the guy who gets the story is himself the story. While we may feel sorry for his untimely death at the age of 41, beautifully played by Hanks, all the razzmatazz in the world isn’t going to get that in the headlines – even if you’re the luckiest guy in the world. 

 


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