Twists, turns, betrayal help make ‘The Source’ a must-see theater event

From left, Conan McCarty, Eleanor Handley and Andrew Rein in a scene from the world premiere of Jack Canfora's "The Source." (PHOTO: SuzAnne
From left, Conan McCarty, Eleanor Handley and Andrew Rein in a scene from the world premiere of Jack Canfora’s “The Source.”
(PHOTO: SuzAnne Barabas)

In the New Jersey Repertory Company’s excellent, nicely staged, absorbing world premiere “The Source,” a newspaper mogul calls a late-night meeting with two of his top executives to plan a strategy to deal with a serious and potentially illegal issue.

Allegations soon will be leveled that his company hacked into the cell phone of a murdered 14-year-old girl to obtain her voice mail messages. 

Illegal or not says Roland (Conan McCarty), the mogul, the company is  not going to look good to the public whose sympathies will be with the dead girl’s family.

 And that’s not all.

He tells Eleanor (Eleanor Handley) and Andrew (Andrew Rein) the allegations allege his news organization not only knew about the voicemail hacking  it also knew police were paid for information, and the hacking of Prince William, Paul McCartney during his divorce, Gulf War vets and families of the Fort Hood massacre.

If this sounds vaguely familiar that’s because the Australian-born American media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s companies faced the same dilemma when they were accused of regularly hacking the phones of celebrities, royalty, and public citizens.

There are more similarities, but to reveal them would spoil the fun of seeing this well written, intelligent, often very funny — but serious — play from Jack Canfora.

For instance, after Roland comments his newspaper-owner father never had as great a view a view of New York City he one in Eleanor’s office, Andrew dryly responds, “That’d be asking a lot of Missouri.”

Eleanore asks Andrew how his walk was he responds, “Pretty appalling, actually. In midtown, surrounded by some of the world’s great restaurants and Applebee’s is packed.”

When Roland arrives — late —to the meeting he notes, “This is potentially a very serious legal matter. I want to talk frankly to you about it, and I want you to talk frankly with me about it.  So the last thing I want in the room is a lawyer.”

Andrew, as the under appreciated son, says, “If I don’t make myself the center of everything, how can I expect anyone else to?” 

The two-hour work is a winner of the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award (30 previous winners made it to Broadway) and two of his three plays staged here made the move to off-Broadway.

I’d be surprised if this work did not transfer as well. The dialogue is snappy, but believable. You don’t see the plot twists coming, unless you’re very familiar with Murdoch’s story (so don’t Google it!). And there’s an intriguing, enigmatic ending nicely delivered by Handley.

I mean, really. I’m ready for “The Source, Part 2.” And I’m not just saying that because I’m a journalist intrigued by “the forces that shape our views of the world and the influence of the media on our society,” as the press release described the play.

Jessica Parks’ set design of a luxury office and lighting by Jill Nagle made the stage feel spacious, which is not easy in this intimate theater. Costumes by Patricia E. Doherty not only looked great, they enabled several quick changes.

The play runs through April 7 at the New Jersey Repertory Company, 179 Broadway, Long Branch. Tickets $50. Visit www.njrep.org or call  732-229-3166 for more information.