So “The Columnist” lacks some vital detail and those crucial blanks make the two-act play an incomplete character study. Auburn’s nicely-modulated way with dialogue is agreeable but the playwright does not make much of a case why we should be interested today in this virtually forgotten, high-handed scribe or his domestic problems with his wife, brother and stepdaughter (Grace Gummer).
Fortunately, Lithgow confidently depicts Alsop as an ebullient, mostly unflappable individual blessed with a martini-dry manner and unshakable convictions. Lithgow’s vivid artistry helps to make Alsop into excellent company even when the playwright’s material runs thin.
The other actors provide capable performances while director Daniel Sullivan smoothly stages the underdone drama with the excellent design values typical of MTC productions.
“The Columnist” continues through June 24 at the Samuel J. Friedman Theater, 261 W. 47th St., New York. Call (212) 239-6200 or visit www.telecharge.com.