Television, a mad-as-hell critic could argue, has largely had a negative effect on theatre in North America over the years.
How many TV stars – when done with, or on hiatus from a series – end up giving two-dimensional performances in mediocre plays that their star-power has helped bring to Broadway? Plays that subsequently end up being disseminated to theatres across the continent, all because of the reflected glare of the boob tube?
It’s impossible for even the biggest theatre snob to get angry about any of the choices that Tatiana Maslany is making as she’s landed on New York stages this season, however.
A year after Orphan Black ended its run, the Emmy-winning chameleonic Canadian who played a dozen clones in that sci-fi hit is picking theatre projects that are notable for their credibility, working with the world’s top directors on shows that are catnip to critics.
This week, Maslany makes her Broadway debut in Network – Tony-winning Belgian director Ivo van Hove’s trippy stage version of the 1976 film about television that won legendary screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky one of his three Academy Awards.
Everything about Chayefsky’s satirical script – which British playwright Lee Hall has subtly tweaked for the stage – seems almost impossibly prescient.
Movie and play both concern Howard Beale (played on stage, brilliantly, by another TV star, Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston), a newscaster who one day cracks on the air and famously shouts: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it any more!” (You’re encouraged to shout along with him in the play.)