Saturday, March 21, 2009

"The Story": ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼

"The Story" makes you sick. It also makes you think, keeps you on your edge of your seat and is one of the best shows we've seen all year.

The reason Tracey Scott Wilson's no-hero tale gives your stomach such a jolt is that it is so honest. The fictional big city newspaper is a den of jealousy. There has been a murder downtown, where a white school teacher has been shot by an unidentified (assumed) black assailant, and now there is a rush to tell the story and assign blame. The problem is that everyone has an agenda, including all the editors and reporters at the paper.

At first you can't help but dislike Pat (played brilliantly by Halili Knox), the editor of the newspaper's Outlook section, which is where all the "black" stories get placed, because she is self-centered and cruel to Yvonne (the equally brilliant Ryan Peters). The author makes you like Yvonne better, because she is pretty and seems more centered, but you make a bad choice. Likewise you want to like Jessica Dunn (Rebecca Schweitzer), the wife of the murdered teacher, because she's a victim, but there is the problem of her obvious racism; and you really don't want to like Neil or Jeff (Dwight Hunstman and Craig Marker) because both are so clearly on the make, but in the end...well.

And poor Latisha. She is played to such perfection by Kathryn Tkel that you don't know which lie you like most. This is The Story's defining role.

There is a lot going on here. There's that affair to hide, and racism is everywhere, including in the audience where Latisha snags us, along with Yvonne, when she says with exasperation: "I spoke to you in German and Italian but you still believed I was in a gang!" Yvonne bought Latisha's story and, sigh, so did we.

Margo Hall's direction is flawless. By the time you realize you are watching a murder mystery you are hooked. And the ending is perfect -- nobody wants to lose their own little piece of the pie by exposing anything as trivial as the truth.

"The Story" is a first-time collaboration between the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre and San Francisco Playhouse. It's a match made on Sutter Street. We hope they do it again.

RATINGS: ☼ ☼ ☼ ☼
The San Francisco Theater Blog Awards Division awards "The Story" two stars for Tracey Scott Wilson's writing, which is mind-bogglingly concise -- this is a short, one-act play with no intermission but there is enough in it to keep you talking for days. All the major players in the cast are standouts, with Marker and Hunstman only a half step behind Knox, Peters and Tkel. Along with Hall's direction they earn another star and a half. But the element that takes this play and makes it a four star production is honesty. No one's feelings are spared. No one is a saint, they are just well-meaning people attempting to keep it real. And no one knows what that means. Don't miss "The Story."

"The Story"
San Francisco Playhouse
533 Sutter Street, San Francisco
Tue-Sun through April 25

No comments: