The theaters are starting to give a care about the journalists. This weekend, the local NewsWrights United will wrap up The New New News, a play based on interviews with Seattle journalists about how they're dealing with the rise of the internet. And Live Girls! Theater has opened Hardball by Victoria Stewart, a play about a daily newspaper journalist who makes the leap to conservative TV pundit. It's sweet that one dying industry is taking an interest in another—but it feels a little like a eulogy.
Young reporter Virginia Eames (Jaime Roberts) gets fired from the Post for wearing a pro-Bush pin, since daily reporters—God help them—are supposed to pretend like they don't have political allegiances. She makes an appearance on a TV show called The Press Speaks and becomes a conservative mini-celebrity. At first, she falters, letting nuance cloud her talking points while other pundits clobber her—notably, conservative pundit Jim Lauderdale, played by great local talent Roy Stanton. Thin and bald with a Southern accent, Stanton's Lauderdale resembles no one so much as a Republican James Carville and is easily the most entertaining performance in Hardball. Lauderdale once worked on the liberal George McGovern campaign (with Eames's ex-boss and ex-lover Daniel, played by Shawn Belyea) but has made the transition to conservative talking head—whether his change was due to love or money is one of the script's more intriguing mysteries.
Stewart's two-act play is a funny, sharp story about journalists and how their relationships and ideologies interlace with their jobs—a question that's rarely examined with such narrative force. But the production drags serious ass. The few scenes that take place on camera—The Press Speaks, political talk shows—are tight and fast. But in every other scene, director Meghan Arnette lets her actors fatten themselves on unnecessary pauses and long, meaningful looks. Stanton's performance as Lauderdale stands out, in part, because his character moves at the speed of life while everyone else seems to be acting in slow motion. If the cast simply picks up its cues, Hardball could be one of the better shows about journalism's current crux.
This article has been updated since its original publication.