“The Columnist,” by David Auburn, author of “Proof,” is Performing Arts of Woodstock’s latest production. The play, in the air-conditioned, newly renovated Woodstock Town Hall, 76 Tinker Street, will open on May 31 and play June 1, 2, 7,8,9, 14, 15 at 8 p.m., as well as at a matinée on June 16 at 3 p.m.
Directed by award-winning Nicola Sheara, the play was recently seen on Broadway with John Lithgow in the leading role. It tells some of the story of Joseph Alsop, journalist at first at The New York Herald Tribune, then at The Washington Post. His weekly columns in almost 400 newspapers were spectacularly influential during the Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy and Johnson administrations.
Joseph Alsop, who coined the phrase “missile gap” during the Kennedy-Nixon campaign, sometimes worked closely with his brother, Stewart, whose columns appeared in The Saturday Evening Post. They were both fiercely patriotic anti-Communists who were not afraid to oppose Senator Joe McCarthy.
Their New Deal liberalism hardened to a hawkish approach to the Cold War and U.S. involvement in Vietnam. They were on the inside and at the top of Washington society, especially during the Kennedy years, and were intimates of the CIA’s top bureaucracy. In fact, they were used to spread CIA “facts” through their columns. Joe, in particular, was loved, feared, and courted in equal measure. He even urged Kennedy to persuade Johnson to join his ticket.
While sometimes exposing state secrets, Joe kept his own secret — that he was a homosexual at a time when public knowledge would have ruined his career. The play deals with Joe Alsop’s bold and witty management of his life amid intense political drama.
Farrell Reynolds plays Joseph Alsop. Doug Koop is his brother Stewart, Anna Remet plays Frances Mary, Joe’s wife, and Kendra Cornelis is his step-daughter, Allison. One of Joe’s chief antagonists, David Halberstam, is played by Gregor Trieste, Joe Bongiorno plays Andrei, and Brandon Hargrove is Philip.
Featured image: Farrell Reynolds and Anna Remet as Joe and Susan Alsop
Tickets are $17 and $14 for senior and students. Group rates are available.
For reservations, please call (845) 679‑7900.