Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fringe/Live Broadcast

You need look no further than the recent backlash against Whole Foods (in response to comments from their CEO about health care) to see the relevance of John William Schiffbauer's Live Broadcast. The issue is no longer that we take our First Amendment right to free speech for granted, it's that we penalize others for exercising it. Our country can no longer agree to disagree, and if you're not with us, you're against us.

Dangerous times, then, to speak the truth. Congresswoman Madeline Bruce (Andrea Day) is willing to, at least so long as she knows her constituents are behind her. However, that's a luxury that Tom Powers (Schiffbauer) doesn't have: he's a movie star, his ball-busting agent Jane Forge (Amanda Brooke Lerner) reminds him; he's not paid to think--especially not in a conservative way. That's just not his pulled-up-from-Midwestern-bootstraps way, though, so Powers decides to go on a political talk show hosted by an old friend, Jack Tatum (Kyle Knauf), and to show that he has a mind of his own--that he has substance.

Schiffbauer succeeds in finding substance, both as actor and writer, and so what if he's heavy handed about it? After building up to the "live" show--Jane attempts to talk her client out of career suicide and, failing that, to bully Jack into pulling his punches (writing about as deep but just as entertaining as Entourage)--he finally lets his characters go, with Maddie and Tom pushing the manipulative Jack into the background so that they can actually speak--and it's a credit to Schiffbauer's writing that both sides make valid points (albeit never on the same hot-button issue). The only thing that feels tacked on is a brief romance between Jack and Maddie; it's well intentioned, meant to illuminate not just the power struggle between a man and woman, but also the divide between those who do things and those who get paid more to simply quip about it. However, given the limits of Live Broadcast, it gets stuck artificially showing those things: the play needs more dimensions, not fewer.

On a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being "The O'Reilly Non-Factor" and 5 being "Real Time with Bill Maher," Live Broadcast gets a 3.

No comments: