Spotlight: The Story

At the Pillsbury House Theatre

This brainy and fast-paced regional premiere teases out notions of trust and authenticity, and of their relationship to the truth in our media-drenched and utterly politicized society. Tracey Scott Wilson's sleek dramatic vessel sails under the standard of the newsroom drama--this one based on a Washington Post reporter in the early '80s who had to return a Pulitzer after it was determined that she had falsified her reporting. Pat (Faye M. Price) and Neil (Kevin D. West) are African American newsroom vets who have carved out a niche at their paper in a social environment that one likens to Alabama in 1963. Their us-against-the-world ethic has become habitual and pleasurable--when dishing the dirt in private they reduce their colleagues to types ("Uncertain Sister," "Trust Fund Baby")--and they're not particularly pleased with the arrival of game but bumptious newcomer Yvonne (Sonja Parks). Their opinion of affairs improves when Yvonne sets about professional self-immolation in the second act. The set (by Dean Holzman) is businesslike and austere, done up in gray and newsprint black, which rightfully puts the emphasis on the actors and their rivers of verbiage. Director Sharon Walton has her cast capably dealing with complicated interlocking scenes in which the dialogue goes back and forth in time and place--things could easily get confusing, but they don't. Using the full width of the Pillsbury House stage, though, means that audiences have to engage in rapid-fire head turning akin to that of a tennis match (my whiplash lawsuit is forthcoming). Price and West work well together, generating a plausibly pragmatic, old-school, let's-close-ranks response to institutionalized racism--along with the suggestion that changing times have made their response a bit paranoid. Parks gives us a self-possessed, ambitious careerist with a core full of...what, exactly? It's a complicated performance of a character full of rage, self-pity, self-interest, and a chillingly vacuous capacity to lash out when cornered. Parks takes us, in a short time, from a likeably crafty go-getter to a woman done in by a web of lies. Along the way we get a glimpse at ruthless, mendacious bullshit, American-style.

 
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