Nothing’s ever so simple as black and white. Not the dying dinosaur of newspaper print. Not the fine line between telling the truth and obscuring the facts. Not racial stereotypes amidst ethnic tensions. And definitely not the conflicting versions of a rape case. Steven Robman deftly directs his talented cast in Bernard Weinraub’s cleverly written “Above the Fold,” currently at the Pasadena Playhouse. The plot keeps thickening. Just when you think you’ve reached one assumption, another tidbit of fact (or fiction?) makes itself known and another conclusion seems more than plausible — just like peeling layers of an onion.
This inspired, harmonious convergence of direction, cast, script and production values succeeds in raising the various issues of the aforementioned black and white.
Taraji P. Henson slowly but surely rivets as Jane as she strives to climb the ladder of journalistic success. A young, black female reporter, Jane is assigned to profile the two competing candidates for an upcoming congressional seat — a white prosecutor and a black woman politician. As chance would have it, Jane arrives in this southern town the day after a black dancer accuses some white fraternity boys of rape.
Mark Hildreth cunningly portrays the country-bumpkin charm of the seemingly naive chief prosecutor Lorne. The always-dependable Arye Gross embodies his role of Jane’s editor Marvin with equal parts media-savvy wisdom, paternal concern and gruff pragmatism.
Kristy Johnson does not “act” the role of the exotic dancer Monique; she simply is Monique, the down-on-her-luck single mother caught in the wrong place at the wrong time while struggling to keep her head above water. Bravo, Ms. Johnson!
Kristopher Higgins, Seamus Mulcahy and Joe Massingill, as the three frat boys, individually and collectively get their moments to shine as they eventually get to disclose their version of the fateful night.
Jeffery P. Eisenmann’s minimal set with the bare essential re-combinations of tables and chairs effectively offers up various locations, highly complemented by Jason H. Thompson’s video projections of newsfeeds, newscasts and story filings.
Weintraub’s “Above the Fold” achieves what all artists ultimately strive for — slyly enlightening the audience while simultaneously entertaining them. You will leave the 140-minute performance questioning your own ability to see shades of gray, as many times black and white can be tinted by the spin of the media or colored by a politician’s naked (or deeply hidden) agenda. “Above the Fold” is a must-see!
—By Gil Kaan, Culture Spot LA
Performances continue through Feb. 23 at the Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena 91101. Show times are Tuesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m., Sundays at 2 and 7 p.m. For tickets, visit www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org or call the box office at (626) 356-7529.