Among the many virtues of New Horizon Theater's production of Tracey Scott Wilson's The Story is that it says what it wants to say, then knows when to end. The acronymously named KL, in his directorial debut, marks a quick and smart pace in this 2003 drama-cum-thriller, inspired by real-life journalism scandals in Washington, D.C., and Boston, not to mention the shameful legacy of racist policies in newsrooms across the country.
There have been many classic tales of The Big Story and the Reporter Who Stops at Nothing for a Scoop. Sometimes the havoc wreaked by such ruthless ambition leads to The Reporter's downfall, and maybe a new humility and ultimate salvation. Sometimes not. The hot-shot reporter pursuing this particular big story is a polished, multilingual African-American woman, played with smooth grace by Erin Perry, like her director also making a remarkable debut. And just like her predecessors in the legions of theatrical hot-shot reporters, she ignores the advice of her editor, cuts out more experienced competitors, and manages to circumvent the brakes in the system that might have prevented the final tragedy.
Playwright Wilson often employs a neat sort of instant flashback, in which characters telling their stories cross back and forth between reliving and narrating the events. In this compression of time and space, they sometimes carry on several conversations at once, occasionally to comic effect, but mainly to underline the play's urgent pace. The Story mixes a murder mystery with questions about truth and about African-American identity in a twisting narrative that would not be fair to reveal. There are surprises, insights, a few laughs and even the sewing-up of many suspected holes in the plot -- except for the big one left as an exercise for the audience.
Keeping pace with Perry are Jonathan Berry, as the sharper but more principled reporter; Ashley Coney, as the enigmatic Latisha; and Jessica Dunn, providing the necessary ambivalence as the new widow. James V. Thomas' minimalist set does its duty, evoking both the newsroom and the street, and Cheryl El Walker's costume designs and Eric Smith's light and sound augment the noirish atmosphere.
New Horizon's production is occasionally rough around the edges, and the play's heavy-messaging is sometimes a bit shrill. But The Story is raw, razor-edged and (dare I say it?) fun in a way that exercises rather than insults your brain.
The Story continues through Sept. 28. New Horizon Theater at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater, East Liberty. 412-421-0773 or firstname.lastname@example.org