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The News That Fits

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Anthony Bean Community Theater, 1333 S. Carrollton Ave., 862-7529; The Story, currently on the boards at the Anthony Bean Community Theater, is not really a nonlinear play, but it does make use of nonlinear techniques to tell a linear story. Playwright Tracey Scott Wilson apparently got her inspiration for The Story from the true-life saga of Janet Cooke. That name may not immediately pop up in your memory bank. Janet Cooke won her 15 minutes of fame by winning a Pulitzer Prize for articles in The Washington Post about an 8-year-old heroin addict. She subsequently won her 15 minutes of infamy when it was discovered she had made up most of her story.

The Story begins with a crime. A white couple working as inner-city schoolteachers is driving through the poor, rough section of town where they work during the day. They get lost. Some one shoots the young man (Nick Thompson). This episode is told in nonlinear fashion. We see the wife (Kate Labouisse) being interviewed by a detective (Donna Marie King) in a precinct office, and we also see the actual murder. Furthermore, the two scenes intersect, so that what is happening and what is being described afterward seems indistinguishable. Curiously (and this is something that Einstein might not understand), there seems to be no doubt that what "actually" happened and what the wife relates is identical. The uncertainty principle is not at work -- not yet.

The uncertainty principle enters the story when we move to the press room of The Daily. Here, a new employee named Yvonne (Joyce Deal) shows up for work. She is a young, attractive, ambitious African-American woman. She has her eyes on the prize and wants to get off to a glorious start, perhaps in the Metro section, which is run by a white guy named Jeff (Nick Thompson again) -- with whom Yvonne is having a forbidden romance, forbidden not because it's interracial, but because it's between employees of the corporation.

How much of this romance is true heartthrob and how much is career-track opportunism? Good question. In any case, Yvonne is assigned to the Outlook section, which seems to be the catchall for African American journalists at the Daily. Her boss is Pat (the always remarkable Gwendolyn Foxworth) and her coworker is Neil (Derrick Deal). Pat was the first Black employee at The Daily and she has fought the good fight to make the Outlook section, a place where positive aspects of the African-American community get noticed.

Yvonne wants no part of this. Stories about community centers and such bore her to death. Worst of all, benevolent trivia won't propel her up the ladder to fame and fortune. Yvonne wants to do something attention grabbing -- like, say, the murder of the white schoolteacher. A competition sets up between Yvonne (backed by her lover, Metro editor Jeff) and Neil (backed by his comrade and boss, Outlook editor Pat).

Things take a weird turn when Yvonne interviews an astoundingly well-educated young black girl named Latisha (Amber Wilkinson). Latisha speaks fluent Italian and German. Then she claims to be a gang member and the murderer of the white schoolteacher. She did it, she says, dressed as a boy!

But, remember now, The Story is based on a real-life journalist who made up a sensational story. So, the play takes a weird turn. We -- and the other characters -- learn that Yvonne is not entirely to be trusted. How much of what she says about Latisha or about herself can be believed?

The cast, under Anthony Bean's direction, plays with considerable energy and conviction. The Story raises many interesting questions, not merely about race, but also about ambition and the ethics of the workplace.

For me, the play's end was abrupt and confusing. I felt a point was being made, but what that point was escaped me. The uncertainty principle, for better or worse, carried the day.

The Detective (Donna Marie King, right) interrogates - Jessica Dunn (Kate Labouisse) in Tracey Scott Wilson's - The Story, currently on the boards at Anthony - Bean.
  • The Detective (Donna Marie King, right) interrogates Jessica Dunn (Kate Labouisse) in Tracey Scott Wilson's The Story, currently on the boards at Anthony Bean.

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