Breaking the Story

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Photo: Joan Marcus Review
As Thomas Wolfe wondered, can you ever go home again? Even when you change your physical surroundings? It’s the major dilemma surrounding Marina Reyes (played by the stalwart Maggie Siff), a longtime war correspondent who has survived her latest brush with death, in Alexis Scheer’s complex – and sometimes overly complicated – “Breaking the Story,” now premiering at Second Stage’s Tony Kiser Theater under the hard-working direction of Jo Bonney.

Indeed, being sure of when or we are in this play can be tricky, likely on purpose, as the Playbill tells us the play’s setting is “right now, in the near future, or maybe it already happened.” The evocative projections (by Elaine J. McCarthy) and sound design (by Darron L. West) are often our best clues, but even they don’t explain every situation.

Moreover, the decision to make this play an 80-minute one-act works against it, as one often feels crucial bits of dialogue and character backstory have been left on the proverbial cutting room floor. Still, what’s left for us to take in can often be shattering, hilarious and provocative (and yes, confusing.)

The work basically takes place in the garden of Marina’s recently purchased Wellesley mansion (the simple set is by Myung Hee Cho), a seemingly impulsive purchase that feels designed by Marina to force her to settle down and “retire.” And why wouldn’t she? Marina frequently experiences what seems to be flashbacks to her terrifying wartime experiences, many alongside her cameraman Bear (an appealing Louis Ozawa), who has become her full-time lover and – in another impulsive move – soon-to-be-husband.

Yes, the plot’s cleverest twist is having her nearest and dearest gathered in Wellesley to watch her receive a Distinguished Achievement Award, Marina decides to add on an impromptu wedding to her weekend, another way we presume she figures will keep her “grounded.”

Bear seems willing enough to go along for the ride; far happier about the nuptials is Marina’s unlikely best friend Sonia (a brilliant Geneva Carr), a wealthy Republican socialite with an endless list of contacts and a flair for party-planning. Sonia has also been playing surrogate mother to Marina’s teenage daughter Cruz (an excellent Gabrielle Policano), who seems to vacillate between attending college and becoming a touring musician, as well as hating her mother and loving her. (Their relationship could honestly use a bit more depth.)

Also on hand are Marina’s colorful mother, Gummy (another priceless portrayal by Julie Halston), a transplanted Floridian with a fondness for men and Dunkin’ Donuts; Marina’s protégé and frenemy, a popular podcaster named Nikki (Tala Ashe, struggling with an underwritten role) who wants to “expose” every aspect of Marina’s past, and eventually her ex-husband Fed (a fine Matthew Saldivar), a national TV broadcaster who is still carrying a torch for Marina.

Scheer’s characters are flawed yet engaging, which keeps our interest as much as the question whether the award ceremony or wedding will actually take place – never mind what will happen in their aftermath. Indeed, which “story” Scheer most wants to tell – or actually does tell – remains up for discussion.

By Brian Scott Lipton

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Open/Close Dates
Opening 6/4/2024
Closing 6/23/2024

Theatre Info
Tony Kiser Theatre
305 West 43rd Street
Neighborhood: West 40s
New York, NY 10036