World premiere play ‘The Source’ asks if media can go too far

World premiere play ‘The Source’ asks if media can go too far

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Jack Canfora's drama, at New Jersey Repertory Company through April 7, is loosely based on the phone hacking scandal that rocked Rupert Murdoch's UK media company a decade ago.

Cell phone and Internet companies know where we are and what we’re doing almost every minute of the day. The media reports compromised bits of information that are both relevant to the public interest, such as internal documents showing government lies and deceptions, and sometimes not.

Keep that in mind while watching Jack Canfora‘s “The Source,” which is having its world premiere run at New Jersey Repertory Company through April 7. The drama is loosely based on the phone hacking scandal that rocked Rupert Murdoch’s British media empire about a decade ago.

“It questions the idea of privacy and whether in the 21st century that’s still a viable thing and it questions those who would try to breach that privacy,” Canfora said. “It’s an open question: When is it ok to violate privacy?”

As one character notes during the show, perhaps the biggest public service is to let people know there’s no such thing as privacy anymore. 

A quick and cursory recap of playwright’s real-life inspiration: Employees at Murdoch’s UK-based “News of the World” were accused of hacking phones to gather information, including those of a murdered teenager, the families of British soldiers killed in conflict and victims of the July 7, 2005, London underground bombings.

At the center of the controversy were Murdoch, his son/company executive chairman James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks, a long-time company loyalist.

The scandal prompted the Murdoch family to close “News of the World.” Rupert Murdoch apologized to the public and told Parliament that being called to answer the elected leaders’ questions was “the most humble day of my life.” Brooks left the company and faced criminal charges.  

And now? Murdoch and his company are back on top, again one of the most influential news organizations in the world. (A recent New Yorker piece details the ways Fox News, of which Murdoch is chairman, has become a propaganda outlet for the Republican Party.) Brooks, who was cleared during the criminal inquiry, again holds an influential position within Murdoch’s powerful news organization. 

“One of the most stunning things (about the hacking scandal) was that there was a lot of sound and fury but it didn’t clarify much,” said Canfora, who said his play “is sort of a counter history of what happened.”

At the center of the drama are the media mogul (Roland, played by Conan McCarty); his son (Andrew, played by Andrew Rein); and a long-time employee (Eleanor, played by Eleanor Handley).

Set in New York and London, the show focuses on the many power plays at work – in a family, in business, between the sexes — as each character tries to manipulate the situation for the sake of self-preservation. It also looks at the modern media landscape: Does merely possessing unique information mean it must be published? Is the argument that “If we don’t publish, someone else will” enough to justify possible harm?

“I’m not smart enough to have answers. My job as a writer is to raise these questions and call them to the light,” Canfora said. “I hope people leave asking themselves what they would do in a similar situation, what their boundaries are.”

Director Evan Bergman said the show is all about power. The characters are “ruthless and cunning,” he said, but also likeable. 

“They’re characters on the edges, but they’re likeable because Jack’s writing has a lot of wit. These are smart people and language is their tool and their weapon,” Bergman said. “The audience will enjoy watching these very very smart characters manipulate each other for their own gains and do it with a great amount of panache.”


NJ Repertory Company

179 Broadway, Long Branch

Tickets: $30=55, available online at Through April 7. 

Natalie Pompilio is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. She can be reached at Find her on Twitter @nataliepompilio. Find on Facebook.  

Published at Fri, 08 Mar 2019 16:34:50 +0000