The miracle in print

Arts & Entertainment/Theatre by

The Daily Miracle is the second play from former Montreal Gazette copy editor David Sherman. Sherman began writing in 2004, when he was a playwright-in-residence at the Centaur Theatre by day and a copy editor by night. The play departs from the traditional fictional focus on investigative reporters to take a look at life behind the editing desk.

“[Copy editors] do a very difficult job … and I don’t think enough is really said about what they bring to the task,” says Sherman.

The Daily Miracle takes place in real-time, after the early edition of the paper has been sent to the presses, but before the final copy has been drafted. The audience sits overlooking the stage, which is set up as a slightly disheveled newsroom from which coffee has been recently outlawed. It’s the night of a winter storm, and tensions are already high between the night editor, the marginally alcoholic and certainly cynical Benjamin (played by Howard Rosenstein), the three copy editors, and a meandering janitor.

Roland (Jean-Guy Bouchard) is a philosophizing former typographer-turned-janitor, who succeeds in annoying the audience almost as much as he annoys the denizens of the newsroom. It’s difficult to say whether his rambling tirades are the result of the writing, the acting, or both. Either way, the result is an excessive, wince-inducing performance.

However, strong preformances from Ellen David (from CBC’s 18 to Life) as Elizabeth, who is balancing a breaking story with a child who has swine flu, fedora-wearing Arthur Holden as Marty, a recently returned editor, and Sheena Gazé-Deslandes, as copy editor and would-be television anchor Carrie, are more than redeeming.

Although the script is charming and witty with timely references – in one case, to the iPad, which was released the day before – the production would have benefited from a few more days of practice.

Non-newspaper people might also find much of the play incomprehensibe, as it’s laden with industry jargon and references which might not make sense to the casual viewer. As a result, the play lacks the wide-range appeal to attract a more general audience. But for those with a stake in the industry, the play is a chilling picture of things to come.

The Daily Miracle is billed as a long-song for the newspaper industry, but it could just as well be an obituary. From the messy desks to the foreboding scent of wasabi wafting out of the executive boardroom, the unanticipated and frankly ominous conclusion is more than disheartening. But despite this, Sherman maintains that there is a future for the newspaper industry.

The Daily Miracle is playing at the Bain St. Michel, 5300 St. Dominique, until February 14. For more information, visit www.infinitheatre.com or call (514) 987-1774.