Saturday, February 22, 2014

Above the Fold

Race, class, privilege, gender, sex, and, power take center stage in ABOVE THE FOLD, a Pasadena Playhouse world premiere, by Bernard Weinraub, starring Taraji P. Henson as "Jane," a New York-based newspaper reporter. When Jane's editor, "Marvin," played by Arye Gross, sends her to the South to cover a political campaign, her plans quickly change when shortly after arriving, she learns of the alleged rape of a stripper by members of a fraternity. She gets the scoop from a prosecuting attorney and politician, "Lorne," played by Mark Hildreth. Through this play, the audience is confronted with the myriad ethical challenges reporters face.

To what degree is the story that runs above the fold representative of the story needing to be told? This question becomes a dominant theme. A sub-theme is the degree to which one's future is determined by personal decisions and societal stereotypes and conventions. 

Jane confronts her own identity, as well as her own vulnerability, as she writes stories about the alleged crime. The audience must decide if she is out for glory, eager to have a story printed above above the fold (the upper half of a newspaper), or eager to seek the truth, or both. Her integrity at stake, Jane wrestles with her boss, her interviewees, and her own conscience. 

Kudos to the lighting and set design team. The technology-heavy set, with a huge rendering of a smartphone, a ticker, and a television screen broadcasting the latest headlines, reminds the audience of the way print journalism competes with the immediacy of social media and websites.

The Weinraub script addresses the complexity of an African American woman's way in the world, as opposed to place in society. As a result, ABOVE THE FOLD may leave audiences uneasy, but empathetic.

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