For more than twenty years, Janet Cooke’s journalistic transgression was a footnote. The former Washington Post reporter became persona non grata back in 1981 when it was revealed she had fabricated a story about an eight-year-old heroin addict—an article so persuasively written she nabbed a Pulitzer for it. (The award was rescinded soon after.) Despite her mind-blowing transgression, print journalism as a whole withstood the scandal pretty well. In the eyes of the general public, it was upsetting though certainly not reason enough to indict an entire industry. Of course, over the past decade there has been a decided shift in the public’s trust and when the New York Times-Jayson Blair scandal hit in 2003—a number of other reporter transgressions have since followed—readers have become downright cynical about the state of journalistic ethics. Who can blame them? Playwright Tracy Scott Wilson delves into this muckraking abyss in her play, “The Story,” now in an engagingly taut production directed by Chuck Smith that ultimately fails to deliver on its thought-provoking premise. Yvonne (the excellent Lizzy Cooper Davis) is a haughty, aggressively ambitious young African-American reporter looking to advance her career. She is hired at a major daily newspaper to write for the vaguely titled Outlook section, which she dismissively refers to as “Ebony/Jet Junior.” Soon, she’s getting into trouble about a murder confession she allegedly reported. Wilson gets things started off well enough, interweaving potent issues about office politics, racism, generation gaps, socio-economic gaps, the dynamics of inner-city community centers, and white guilt, which may or may not have helped to grease the wheels of Yvonne’s hoax. There’s a sense of momentum as all of these hot-button issues ferment, and yet Wilson seems at a loss at how to sustain and resolve this tension in the play’s second act. What you’re left with is a potential story rather than a fully realized one. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.