John Lithgow in The Columnist: My Review


A gay columnist on Broadway? I never signed a release.

Oh, wait. This one’s closeted. Sort of.

David Auburn‘s The Columnist has John Lithgow as Joseph Alsop, the real-life Washington scribe who got a gay blackmail threat from the KGB but decided to trump them by taking the evidence to the FBI.

The ’60s being a time of buried secrets, it never reached the public.

Alsop is portrayed as a paranoid but talented guy who’s always looking for a conspiracy and often finds one.

His brother and fellow journalist, Stewart (Boyd Gaines), is his often frustrated protector while his wife (Margaret Colin) is getting tired of playing the beard, hoping Joe’s “nature” might have changed with time so she could enjoy “the physical element.”

It hasn’t. He’s still gay. And still paranoid. For good reason.

Interestingly, this is the second production this season (the Best Man revival being the other) in which gay evidence looms as a political weapon. Add the Man and Boy revival, in which a gay businessman is outsmarted by a power broker using sexual trickery, and you’ve got a lot of outing in the air, as shreds of personal lives hover over the upcoming election.

The Columnist, it turns out, is well-written, nicely designed, talky, and a little bit dull.

The whole show is Lithgow, who–in his gray suit, bow tie, and specs–gets to the heart of a man full of withering sarcasm, humor, jingoism, and rages.

He’s terrific.

And I’m gladder than ever that I’m out of the closet.

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