Stop the Press

Poor pacing and a puzzling lead wrinkle The Front Page

This authenticity is mirrored in the play's set, which was intricately designed by John Coyne. The action of the play occurs in the courthouse press room, the top of the gallows easily visible through its tall windows. No detail is spared--roll top desks, multiple telephone lines, hat racks, cluttered trash cans. Oddly, a large clock set at 8:30--the beginning of Act I--is mounted center stage, but its prominence distracts from the work rather than serves it. Many dramas use clocks to heighten tension, becoming almost characters themselves (think High Noon). But here, Earl Williams' execution is scheduled for 7 a.m., and the play begins nearly 11 hours earlier. We never get to a point where time is of the essence or if something doesn't happen at a certain time, bad stuff will follow. With the clock ticking away, it seems as though you are staring at your watch. You grow conscious of the time and more aware that you are watching a play when it stutters and drags. Neither of which happens too often in the DTC production, but when they do, it cuts against the spirit of the piece and the hectic pace its authors intended.

Theater is an organic process; a show can grow within its run as the actors develop more chemistry, anticipate each other's lines, bring more stage business to their work. In order for The Front Page to work, it needs to be on fire. There is still time for the DTC production to spontaneously combust. Then again, the opening-night audience members seemed perfectly delighted by the performance, but they may not have approached the play with my same passion for His Girl Friday.

John Wojda, left, plays ace reporter Hildy Johnson, who is torn between his compulsion to get the big story for his demanding editor (Charles Hyman) and the love for his fiancee (Sally Nystuen Vahle).
Darnell Jean
John Wojda, left, plays ace reporter Hildy Johnson, who is torn between his compulsion to get the big story for his demanding editor (Charles Hyman) and the love for his fiancee (Sally Nystuen Vahle).

Details

Through November 11; 214-522-8499
Dallas Theater Centerís Kalita Humphreys Theater, 3636 Turtle Creek Blvd.

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