The Reviews Are In

The reviews of The Farnsworth Invention are pouring in almost by the hour now.  Here are links to the most recent, and a "money quote" from each one:

The Chicago Tribune (Chris Jones): Boy, this is a jumpy piece of writing. It feels like the writer is
worried the audience might change the channel. That’s not entirely a
bad thing. As fans of Sorkin’s TV shows know well, the internal psyche
of Sorkin is a very stimulating place in which to dwell for a couple of
hours.. And in this case he certainly knows how to make a dry scientific quest into a provocative piece of theater.

The Philadelphia Enquirer (Howard Shapiro): The problem with The Farnsworth Invention, the new and
engrossing play that opened on Broadway last night, is not theater. As
for theatricality, this story about a battle between RCA and the man
who invented television is a magnetizing gem, moving about the stage
almost as if it were dance.
The problem with The Farnsworth Invention is fact. (Jeremy Gerard):  Those actors are stellar, beginning with Jimmi Simpson in
the star-making title role. Simpson perfectly captures
Farnsworth’s exuberant creativity and reckless detachment. He’s
matched by Hank Azaria’s ingratiating Sarnoff, a shark of a
captain of industry.

New York Post (Clive Barnes): Sorkin has gotten some – possibly a lot – of his facts wrong. Following an apparently undisputed feature about Farnsworth in The Post last week, Sorkin’s producers are now calling this "a memory play."

The Globe and Mail (Simon Houpt): Sorkin originally saw this Jazz Age tale as a feature film, but you can
see why he finally determined it worked best in the theatre: It
depends, in his telling, on a dual – and sometimes duelling –
narrative, with each of the men telling the other’s life story. It’s an
odd approach for a writer who has made his name on famously sharp
dialogue, but Hank Azaria, all pinstriped gruff city slickness, makes
Sarnoff an engaging raconteur. And Broadway newcomer Jimmi Simpson, who
awaits a Tony nomination next May, brings a heartland vulnerability to

Chicago Sun Times (Hedy Weiss): A firecracker of a play in a fittingly snap, crackle and pop production
under the direction of Des McAnuff, the drama has among its many
virtues the ability to make you think at the same time that it breaks
your heart.

Theater (Brian Scott Lipton): The Farnsworth Invention marks Sorkin’s first return to the Great White Way in 18 years (since A Few Good Men),
and you instantly realize how much his decided gifts for razor-sharp
dialogue and incisive characterizations have been missed on the stage.

Which isn’t to say that The Farnsworth Invention is exactly a well-made play — or historically accurate.

Reuters (Frank Sheck): Aaron Sorkin’s "The Farnsworth
Invention," about the bitter conflicts surrounding the invention of
television, contains both the flaws and the virtues that have been so
long evident in his work for the same medium. Intelligent and featuring
plenty of witty dialogue, it also suffers from occasional smugness and
a tendency toward clunky dramaturgy that detracts from its overall

Financial Times (Brian Lemon): The dialogue, meanwhile, gives mostly the appearance of panache: the
biggest laugh comes late in the evening from a recycled joke about oral
sex. For my taste, Farnsworth relies too heavily on narration;
by the time Farnsworth and Sarnoff meet face-to-face I was so grateful
for the dramatisation that I didn’t mind finding out that Sorkin had
invented their encounter.

Newark Star Ledger (Michael Sommers): While the two-hour drama’s rapid flow of many scenes is based on
history, Sorkin frankly plays loose with some facts. Relating these
events, Farnsworth and Sarnoff accuse each other of unreliability or
confess to their own. "I just made that last scene up," says Sarnoff,
acknowledging he never actually met Farnsworth face to face.

Steve on Broadway (sob): Making matters worse, in the Second Act, Sorkin resorts to sheer
melodrama bordering on pure fiction. It’s a pity Sorkin chooses to veer
so far from reality in the climactic dust-up between Farnsworth and
Sarnoff. It’s an exposive scene to be sure, but the moment is ruined by
an 11 o’clock admission that what we were to believe constitutes a
first attempt at reality TV is instead as bogus as a Jerry Springer

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Paul Schatzkin

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