Newspaper people have cause for melancholy in their modern role as endangered species. But as the Keen Company reminds us in its lively and very likable New York premiere of Michael Frayn's 1975 comedy, "Alphabetical Order," newsrooms had plenty of reasons for wistful fatalism before the Internet changed the rules.

This is an early, relatively minor work by the British master, whose 1982 "Noises Off" is the only farce that ever made me laugh and whose later works ("Copenhagen" and "Democracy") are the rare dramas that dared to make Broadway think.

But Frayn, a journalist before he became a dramatist, knowingly captures all the self-mocking, self-loving cynicism and romance of a threatened local newspaper. And director Carl Forsman's expert cast and fast-talking style honor the pride, the fun and the delusions of six messy professionals and a tidy outsider in a chaotic newspaper library on the brink of extinction - or at least deadening neatness.


WHERE Clurman Theatre, 410 W. 42nd St


INFO $59.75; 212-239- 6200; keencompany.org

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