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The Farnsworth Invention

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The Farnsworth Invention

type:
Stage
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
12/03/07
performer:
Hank Azaria
director:
Des McAnuff
author:
Aaron Sorkin

We gave it a B

Fans of The West Wing are familiar with Aaron Sorkin’s fondness for smooth talkers, rat-a-tat dialogue, and trivia from the margins of history. And Sorkin’s new play The Farnsworth Invention — his first on Broadway since his explosive 1989 debut, A Few Good Men — seems to be built entirely from the sort of anecdotal aside that Josh or Toby might have relished: A mostly self-educated Utah boy named Philo T. Farnsworth (Jimmi Simpson, resembling a younger Christian Slater) invented most of the technology behind modern television, but then lost the credit — and the fortune — in legal wrangling over his patents and died a broken man. His story is told in counterpoint to that of the budding telegraph-radio-television mogul David Sarnoff (an engaging Hank Azaria). The uniformly strong cast patters along agreeably, but Sorkin’s narrative unfolds more like a PowerPoint presentation of its themes than a drama with any real depth. And a late fictional scene between the two protagonists (who apparently never met in real life) feels just plain phony, giving Sarnoff, the ruthless founder of NBC, a sentimental streak that’s frankly difficult to believe. B
(Tickets: 212-239-6200 or Telecharge.com)