Review: INK at Round House Theatre

A quality production of an intelligent play.

By: Sep. 08, 2023
Review: INK at Round House Theatre
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Cutthroat capitalism and journalistic sensationalist exploitation rears its ugly head in playwright James Graham’s Ink. This superb play is a sharply and pointedly observed tale of the rise of the infamous media mogul Rupert Murdoch (Andrew Rein) as he captures control of the newspaper The Sun and becomes the controversial sensation of Fleet Street. Murdoch’s successful beginnings in Australia seemed to have prepared him for his aggressive actions in England as he tries to pass the sales of The Mirror only to glorify the worst aspects of human nature.

This superb play focuses on Murdoch’s cajoling of his handpicked Editor -in-Chief Larry Lamb (played with fiery command by Cody Nickell) to keep his staff getting their jobs done by any means whatsoever-- whether ethical or not.

This production (which is co-produced by Olney Theatre Center and the Round House Theatre) showcases this intriguing play’s pulsating intellectual excitement. The frenetic world of journalistic infighting and the exploitation of the press to the lowest common denominator is aptly conveyed via the marrying of top-notch actors to exceptional technical components. 

The play’s great virtue is that it is highly observant and it offers the audience characters who are real human beings and not just archetypal symbols or stereotypes. Playwright Graham revels in writing about situations and characters that seem to be speaking to us in the present moment without pretense or didactic exposition.  Moral questions are explored as highly complex conundrums throughout the writing in this play.

The contradiction of The Sun supposedly being a paper for the people and the blatantly uncivil and unethical behavior of Editor Lamb and owner Murdoch is sharply brought out in this complex production. The production often seemed to be an amalgam of the satire of Jerry Springer: the Opera and the hard-driving business world of David Mamet’s Glengarry Glenn Ross.

Director Jason Loewith gives the audience a veritable embarrassment of riches in memorable moments during the play’s running time ----abetted with the sublime scenic design of Tony Cisek and the projections design of Mike Tutaj ----there is an almost constant visually thrilling feel. Large panels of tabloid headlines appear as the various scenes are played out from various sections and panels of the stage, ink is literally splattered as a sordid story is printed, and a revolving set conveys the propulsive energy of a busy newsroom.

As we watch the cajoling of Murdoch to gain his chosen editor Larry Lamb to head the British newspaper The Sun, we assume that the newly chosen editor will have trouble adjusting, but Lamb soon adapts to hiring a full team of writers. This scene is especially winningly conveyed as editor Lamb runs from steam room to locker room to pubs and taverns to win over new talent.

Andrew Rein’s portrayal of Rupert Murdoch is laser-focused with a level of concentration that immediately captures the attention.  The entire ensemble performed with finesse throughout. Kate Eastwood Norris, Craig Wallace, and Maboud Ebrahimzadeh were particularly memorable.

Lighting by Minjoo Kim was very effectively employed to show the required theatrical effect.  Costume design by Debra Kim Sivigny was appropriate for the period.  Sound design and composition by Matthew M. Nielson was variegated and fit the mood of the play perfectly.

Ink is “must see” theatre! Kudos to the Artistic Directors and Managing Directors of the Round House Theatre and the Olney Theatre Center for joining forces to bring a quality production of an intelligent play to the DMV region.

Running Time:  Two Hours and 30 including one intermission.

Ink runs through September 24, 2023 at the Round House Theatre located at 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda, Maryland,20814. 

Photo Credit: The cast of Round House Theatre and Olney Theatre Center's co-production of Ink. Photo by Margot Schulman Photography.


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