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Human Interest Story (Or The Gory Details and All)

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There is far too much in Carlos Murillo's script to be absorbed in one 80-minute exposure. At the very least it seems there should be copious program notes, in the Mark Taper Forum fashion, or ideally the experience would be the culmination of a semester devoted to Video, Voyeurism, and Violation, with this as the final class project. Where to begin?

The central, and unseen, image is that of the ethically dubious politician who calls a live televised press conference and, in the middle of the programming block devoted to game shows and children's fare, blows his head off. This story is filtered first through the mother of a "separatist cyber-punk wannabe." She hears but doesn't see it, as she's watching a video of her son watching his download of the event. Said lad is fellating a gun at the time and ... well, you get the picture. Dawn Hillman has the sense to deliver her performance in a factual, almost deadpan manner; trying to live up to the horror being described would only come off as histrionic. The tale then runs concurrently with others, as a nameless young man (Nathaniel Justiniano) relates the experience of watching a documentary titled Baboon Warriors of the Serengeti. The young man is fascinated with the film's focus on a third-tier male baboon who lacks the courage or position to effect change and is thus relegated to carping from the sidelines. "Critic," it will not surprise you, is one of the descriptive terms given to this beast. It sounds dry, but Justiniano has the charisma to pull it off. Finally the image is entwined around that of a well-maintained housewife (Natalie Sander, as a marvel of social obliviousness), whose artistic cat will serve as the human-interest story on the news the following day. Her interviewer, Kipper Russell (Edgar Landa), ends up being in the middle of the central horror. The paint-slinging cat segment appears to go forward, though. The attractive Jeremy Gabriel and Sharyn Gabriel serve primarily narrative functions, occasionally stepping into minor roles and providing both impetus and eye appeal. Director Neil Donahue, working on Sara Huddleston's clean steps-and-boxes set, wrestles nobly with the text and makes it as clear as it could possibly be. Chris Greulach's lights are as understated and neutral as is the set.

The last time I saw a show here I felt that one viewing left me with about, oh, a third of what was actually going on. This time around I'll say a half, which gives me hope that I'm slowly rising to the challenge of this intrepid ensemble.

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