NY1 Theater Review: "CQ/CX"
Playwright Gabe McKinley's latest work, "CQ/CX" recently debuted off-Broadway at the Atlantic Theater Company. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.
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"CQ/CX" is a thinly veiled chronicle of the New York Times scandal nine years ago that brought the old gray lady to its knees. Written by a former Times staffer, the title refers to editing notes. And while the writing could benefit from some editing of its own, "CQ/CX" bears the pithy elegance of compelling news copy.
The names have been changed but the similarities are very evident. Jay Bennett is an ambitious young black writer, much like Jayson Blair, who you may recall was a young black reporter at the Times, forced out amid charges of journalistic fraud. He had fabricated many facts and events in his stories, and even committed outright plagiarism. The incident raised questions about affirmative action and whether Jayson, who had a problematic internship, was hired because of his skin color. All of that is in the play.
There's also a pompous executive editor - a southern character named Hal Martin who's likely based on Howell Raines; and there's the character Gerald Haynes, the highest ranking black journalist at the paper who mentors Jay, echoing Blair's relationship with the real life Gerald Boyd.
Kudos to playwright Gabe McKinley whose skillful dramatization could so easily have turned into dry docudrama. And David Leveaux's fine directorial hand is apparent in this slick, fast moving production.
The performances ring true, particularly Larry Bryggman's old-school editor and the two bosses Peter Jay Fernandez and Arliss Howard.
Like any good piece of journalism, the story is balanced as McKinley highlights both the Times arrogance and its deserved status as the journal of record. "CQ/CX" isn't a great play. Some of the writing is cliched and we're left hungry for answers. But credit a strong production for making "CQ/CX" the theatrical equivalent of a page turner.