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LaCageFan's thoughts on THE FARNSWORTH INVENTION...

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LaCageAuxFollesFan2
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Aaron Sorkin has glibness down to a science; just take a look at any episode of “The West Wing” or his short lived “Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip” if one need proof of his snappy patter. What is so surprising then with his new clinking (ultimately clunker) Broadway play, “The Farnsworth Invention,” is that Sorkin’s signature slickness has been replaced by hesitation on the part of the playwright to make a really good play. Concerning itself with the invention of the television, the process it took to get the product made, and the effects it had on everyone involved may have been an intriguing tale. Instead, Sorkin gives Broadway audiences a banal and at times inaccurate history lesson minus his signature smart-ass attitude dialogue that normally crackles. What is left is a college classroom lecture that gets it wrong, leaving Sorkin and company looking like nothing more than an ass.

For every hit director Des McAnuff has (Jersey Boys), there is an equally dreadful flop (Dracula: The Musical.) While “The Farnsworth Invention” sits somewhere in the middle of McAnuff’s repertoire, it unfortunately falls near the latter. With such a large ensemble for a Broadway Play, most actors playing a multitude of roles, it becomes nearly impossible to keep certain personas straight from scene to scene because of all the quadruple casting. Layer that on top of an already wordy sermon and audience members will be nodding off quicker than if they were sitting through boring church service.

The ministers in this case would be actors Jimmi Simpson and Hank Azaria who do the plays preaching. They each do what they can with their narration, but neither ultimately succeeds in a rather hopeless battle of the wits. But why is there so much narration in a play anyway? Isn’t a play a dramatic action of some sort? Are today’s playwrights really lazy enough to think audiences would rather sit through an address or lecture of their thoughts on inaccurate history, rather than write a well told, dramatic, and simply good play?

Updated On: 12/2/07 at 07:41 PM
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BustopherPhantom
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That really sucks. I was looking forward to this play.
"Y'know, I think Bertolt Brecht was rolling in his grave."
-Nellie McKay on the 2006 Broadway production of The Threepenny Opera, in which she played Polly Peachum
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TheatreDiva90016
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So the show sucks as much as thier ad on this site?
"TheatreDiva90016 - another good reason to frequent these boards less."<<>> “I hesitate to give this line of discussion the validation it so desperately craves by perpetuating it, but the light from logic is getting further and further away with your every successive post.” <<>> -whatever2
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LaCageAuxFollesFan2
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I really was too...but, luckily I also saw AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY this week end, and well words cant describe how really great that play is. Best New Play I've seen since DOUBT!
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Wanna Be A Foster
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I saw THE FARNSWORTH INVENTION last night.

You make the point twice in your review that the history displayed in the play is "inaccurate," yet you give zero examples with sources no less of such accusations.
"Winning a Tony this year is like winning Best Attendance in third grade: no one will care but the winner and their mom."
-Kad

"I have also met him in person, and I find him to be quite funny actually. Arrogant and often misinformed, but still funny."
-bjh2114 (on Michael Riedel)
Yankeefan007
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Well the biggest example is the fact that Farnsworth and Sarnoff never actually met.
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TomMonster
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Although this play deals with some interesting subject matter, there is zero character development.

I just didn't care what happened to anyone. Slick and dull.
"It's not so much do what you like, as it is that you like what you do." SS

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana." GMarx
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LaCageAuxFollesFan2
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not a Review...just my thoughts on seeing the play, but Yankee gives a classic example above.
Updated On: 12/2/07 at 08:04 PM
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Wanna Be A Foster
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I didn't walk away with the impression that Sarnoff and Farnsworth had ever met.
"Winning a Tony this year is like winning Best Attendance in third grade: no one will care but the winner and their mom."
-Kad

"I have also met him in person, and I find him to be quite funny actually. Arrogant and often misinformed, but still funny."
-bjh2114 (on Michael Riedel)
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chad2
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I enjoyed this show.
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stella985
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At the end of the play they acknowledge that the scene where they met is completely made up.
MargoChanning
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SPOILERS


Also, at the ending of the play, Farnsworth loses his patent case and they make it seem like afterwards he went on a downward spiral into alcoholism and obscurity when that was far from the reality. In truth, Farnsworth won his patent case against RCA, later sold those patents to RCA for $1 million and was a renowned inventor of several important discoveries for the next few decades of his life.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philo_Farnsworth
"What a story........ everything but the bloodhounds snappin' at her rear end." -- Birdie [http://margochanning.broadwayworld.com/] "The Devil Be Hittin' Me" -- Whitney
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LaCageAuxFollesFan2
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my points exactly. If your going to cknowledge the fact that some of the history in the "play" is made up, and you are presenting it in such a historical/lecturing format, then why the need to make it up at all?
Roscoe
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I saw the show earlier this week, and left at the intermission. Less drama than a wikipedia entry. Endless narration of historical data, and allegedly witty asides to the audience and warnings that certain data will be important later on. Even the usually reliable Hank Azaria couldn't breathe life into this one.
"If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers." Thomas Pynchon, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." Philip K. Dick My blog: http://www.roscoewrites.blogspot.com/
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jacobtsf
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I am really surprised by some of the reactions here. I just saw the play Friday night and was blown away. Yes, the story (which I have studied in the past), wasn't always accurate but those moments were few and far between (and, while we are on the subject I LOVED the scene with the 2 gentlemen meeting, and then having Sarnoff say "no, that never happened, but I wish it had" and, judging by the crowd around me, the audience did as well). The idea of the 2 men narating each others' stories worked wonderfully and, I feel it was because of this, that I cared about the characters.

The acting was SUPERB. Azaria was great and Simpson was perfect. And the ensemble was also very good (I will admit that at the beginning of the play it was confusing to tell which "side" they were on at times because of the double/tripple casting BUT that as the play went on it became much easier).

Finally, the direction was also great. This show could be so large, and instead it was brought down to an almost Brechtian level, which I loved.

Perhaps I just saw it on a really good night, or you guys saw it on a not-so-good night, but I really enjoyed myself. I went in not expecting a history lesson, but a good solid show, and I feel that it delivered.
David walked into the valley With a stone clutched in his hand He was only a boy But he knew someone must take a stand There will always be a valley Always mountains one must scale There will always be perilous waters Which someone must sail -Into the Fire Scarlet Pimpernel
Roscoe
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The whole thing just felt very by-the-numbers, to me. No real life anywhere onstage. C'est la vie.
"If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers." Thomas Pynchon, GRAVITY'S RAINBOW "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." Philip K. Dick My blog: http://www.roscoewrites.blogspot.com/
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TomMonster
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Here's a link that provides a scene by scene "fact vs fiction" analysis:

http://thefarnsworthinvention.com/
"It's not so much do what you like, as it is that you like what you do." SS

"Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana." GMarx
Updated On: 12/2/07 at 08:38 PM
neddyfrank2
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Well the biggest example is the fact that Farnsworth and Sarnoff never actually met.

Umm...in the play they say that the two NEVER met.
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Wanna Be A Foster
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Thanks, Tom, for that very revealing website. It looks like Sorkin severely altered the story for his play. I'll be curious to see if and how the reviews address this tomorrow night.

"LaCageAuxFollesFan2," it's nice that everyone else can come in and fill in the blanks for your unfulfilled argument, but in the future, if you want to write a convincing thesis, you might want to provide examples supporting accusations of inaccuracies.
"Winning a Tony this year is like winning Best Attendance in third grade: no one will care but the winner and their mom."
-Kad

"I have also met him in person, and I find him to be quite funny actually. Arrogant and often misinformed, but still funny."
-bjh2114 (on Michael Riedel)
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pab
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Um, who cares if they met or not? IT'S A PLAY. Anyone ever hear of dramatic license? Do you really think that everything that happened in the conversations, outside of the tapings, in Frost/Nixon actually happened like they say it did in the play? Should I name countless other plays that deal with historical events where dramatic license was used? Oy.

"That really sucks. I was looking forward to this play."

And you intend not to go based on one person's thoughts?

"Sorkin is well aware of the liberties he is taking with the historical story line. "Playing fast and loose with the facts" he says. But it is also clear that he knows at least the basic contours of those facts, and -- I think -- he pays suitable reverence to the spirit that glues them all together. "
An 'Insider's' View of 'The Farnsworth Invention'
"Smart! And into all those exotic mystiques -- The Kama Sutra and Chinese techniques. I hear she knows more than seventy-five. Call me tomorrow if you're still alive!"
Updated On: 12/2/07 at 11:08 PM
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LaCageAuxFollesFan2
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Foster, I really dont understand your continued personal attacks on me, but I will say again, I am not writing a thesis, just my thoughts on the show.
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CouldaWouldaShoulda
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I saw the play the evening before the strike began and the man sitting behind me was comparing it to Bertolt Brecht...I wanted to hit him.

Enough said...
"A well-rounded performer will listen to all kinds of music. I like classical, Middle Eastern, and rock a lot." -- Patti LuPone