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LA Theater Review

Hearlds

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Print journalism may be dead—okay, dying—but it's still a handy framework for dramatic writers. It invariably sets the newsroom as the battlefront, and a reporter or editor as the last bastion of free speech. Playwright Jon Cellini takes this tried-and-true model and shakes it up a bit in a smart work for the stage that is bursting with ideas and has fun playing with audience expectations. On the other hand, despite creative volleying, it never quite manages to hit us as a fresh take on a story we've heard before.

At the heart of "Heralds" is Joe (Jeff Kerr McGivney), a newspaper editor eager to start his first day on the job—a position he was handed by his soon-to-be father-in-law, publisher of The Herald (Andrew Bloch). One of Joe's first decisions, besides carnally enjoying his prime office views with his hot fiancée (Annie Tedesco), is to give a green light to an editorial cartoon promoted by his second-in-command (Rob Mathes). The cartoon pokes fun at creationism, but a town like Kansas City is ready for that, right? It doesn't take long for a popular religious leader (Pete Gardner) and his breathtakingly self-righteous wife (Maia Danziger) to galvanize their forces, and, well, The Herald's got more than a tea party on its hands.

The large cast is capable and then some. Stuart Rogers' crack direction keeps the action moving as Cellini unabashedly rips from the headlines—and taps into history—to cleverly comment on corporate media, censorship in the arts, the power of celebrity, and of course the religious right, who embrace "The Passion of the Christ" as a bio-pic (Joshua DesRoches in a short scene-stealer) and hear the voice of God in Easter Peeps (Heather Robinson as an enthusiastic church follower). In some of Cellini's most interesting writing, these concepts are further explored by visits from Socrates (Steve Hofvendahl), Galileo (John Mariano), Joseph Goebbles (Peter Trencher), and an Iranian dissident (Antonio Leon). But in the end, what we're left with here is ideas and concepts and theatrical conventions that don't feel organic, and the tale told by "Heralds" is pretty much old news.

Presented by and at Theatre Tribe, 5267  Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood.  Nov. 5–Dec. 18. Thu.–Sat., 8 p.m. (Dark Nov. 25–27). (800) 838-3006 or www.theatretribe.com.

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