By the time he retired in 1974, the influential columnist Joseph Alsop had a wide reach in America, impacting policy and popular opinion with his syndicated Washington political column that ran in about 300 newspapers three times a week. A cousin of Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt and a good friend of JFK, he led an extraordinary life of fame, privilege, and power. But it’s the hardships he endured in the late ’50s and ’60s—his unpopular support for America’s efforts in Vietnam and rumors that the KGB had snapped incriminating photos of him in bed with another man—that are the subjects of The Columnist, a new play by David Auburn, his first since he won the Tony for best play and Pulitzer for drama for Proof in 2001. For this Manhattan Theatre Club production, Daniel Sullivan, who won a Tony for best direction for Proof, directs a cast including John Lithgow as Alsop and Boyd Gaines as Alsop’s newspaperman brother Stewart.

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Wednesdays, Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7 p.m. Starts: April 5. Continues through July 8, 2012