4/24/2013 7:40 PM
I don’t know how well Aaron Sorkin’s “The Farnsworth Invention” scores in terms of historical accuracy, but it’s a solid and engaging story.
The play focuses on two men who are racing to invent the first television: Philo Farnsworth, a small town engineering genius; and David Sarnoff, a self-made executive millionaire whose financial resources and ambition know no bounds. Throughout the show, we see how much they are willing to sacrifice – time, money, family, integrity, and more – in the pursuit of success.
Fans of Sorkin’s writing style will be comfortable with the witty dialogue that conveys technical information in bite sized quips and keeps everything moving at a brisk pace. This doesn’t leave much room for exploring intellectual or emotional depths, but there is some notable introspection – particularly in the play’s final moments.
No doubt, the play belongs to Sarnoff and Farnsworth, but there are several supporting roles that can be doubled and that offer other actors moments to shine. It might be noted that the female roles aren’t quite as interesting as the male ones, but they’re by no means pushed off to the side.
The technical elements in this play could pose a challenge to some groups, depending on space, budget, and overall resourcefulness. The story jumps back and forth across many locales, so a fluid and flexible playing space is important. Some unusual props are called for (notably a cathode tube) that may be hard to find or expensive, but the text is strong enough that suggestion and substitution may be effective options.
All in all, given the right cast with strong leads and dedicated supporting actors, capable technical and design crew, and put in front of an audience that doesn’t mind being informed while being entertained, this could be a strong entry to any theater’s season.