Print journalism has always been an unholy mix of cynicism and a genuine desire to examine and explore. Newspapers can be just as flawed as the subjects they cover and lately the blame has fallen on individual reporters; Jayson Blair’s hubris and lazy-boy exploits at the New York Times became a sweeping indictment of the entire industry. But the real problem is corporate consolidation of the media, Rupert Murdoch style. Such is the theory, anyway, of playwrights Howard Brenton and David Hare in 1985’s “Pravda,” a fictionalized, pseudo-comic rendering of London’s Fleet Street Aussification. Too bad all this finger-pointing doesn’t amount to more than a few pat conclusions. A low-ranking editor (PJ Powers) starts off jaded enough—his explanation about his newspaper’s no-corrections rule is pithy and very, very funny. But give the guy a promotion and he quickly becomes a pansy and plaything for his boss, the suntanned publishing magnate played by David Parkes in cross between Richard Branson and Charles Foster Kane. While there is something to the argument here—the “free press” doesn’t look so free when a single corporate interest gobbles up the competition—it’s hard to take any of it seriously when the play itself is populated by people who make moronic decisions. As a group, they’re not guilty of bad journalism or yellow journalism so much as stupid journalism, particularly when attempting a major expose. Under the direction of Louis Contey, the TimeLine Theatre production is very busy and frenetic but never reaches any point of clarity—as blurry as smudged newsprint. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.