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Joseph Menino as Edward Murrow. Photo courtesy of Gerry Goodstein

                       By Nicholas Linnehan

 Joseph Vitale's play about Edward Murrow is not only interesting historically, but captivating to watch.

Playwright Joseph Vitale’s play about the life of Edward R. Murrow has been brought to life by actor Joseph Menino and the Phoenix Theater Ensemble on the stage of the Wild Project. It covers Murrow’s early life, his years in England during WWII, and his crusade against Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the mid-1950‘s. 

Act 1 chronicles the Murrow's life from his humble beginnings in North Carolina to his time in England during World War II as CBS’s chief correspondent. We learn about his personal and professional life, his education, and his relationship with the owner of CBS, Bill Paley. Surprisingly, Murrow never intended to be a newscaster; he was supposed to be a behind-the-scenes business administrator, but with the onset of World War II everything changed.  Mr. Menino channels Murrow as he recalls the horrible and heart-wrenching events that took place during the war. Murrow became famous broadcasting from London during the blitz.

 In one memorable scene he talks about looking down from a rooftop and seeing all the aerial bombs exploding around him. He delivers this speech standing atop his desk, giving us a sense of what it must have been like to witness the horrors of war going on beneath him. Especially poignant was his description of a concentration camp where over 40,000 Jews died. The images he drew with his words (remember, this was radio) are unforgettable.

Act 2 follows Murrow's coverage of Joe McCarthy during the 1950's and his controversial takedown of the senator. Murrow describes the incredibly high tensions of the era of McCarthyism and the blacklist, and what a monumental and couragious step it was for Murrow and CBS to air a newscast that opposed the senator. Murrow was, of course, the first media personality to take the senator on. (One can only imagine what he would do with the current presidential candidates).

Performing a one-man show is a high-risk enterprise for an actor.  Mr. Menino is a fine actor, with depth and range. He grabs our attention from the very first moment and does not let go until the last line, and is as captivating in his fiery moments as he is in his comical ones.

Director Jeremy Williams does a mostly fine job bringing Mr. Vitale’s play to life; however, there is a lot of movement on stage, which can be distracting at times. It appears as if the actor has been given too much blocking and sometimes it feels forced, almost as if Mr. Menino is trying to make up for being the only actor. Also, the last 15-20 minutes of the show gets a bit preachy and didactic, as if the playwright is trying to say too much in too short a time. Mr. Vitale's words shine best when he is giving voice to Murrow's interesting life, but lose some of their power when he tries to pound messages into our brain.

These qualms notwithstanding, Murrow makes for a good, thought-provoking production. We can easily become bored from listening to a single actor for nearly two hours. But to everyone's credit that does not happen and we are treated to an educationally intriguing night at the theater.

Murrow plays now through May 22nd at The Wild Project, 195 E. 3rd St. Runtime 70 minutes with an intermission