News Ticker

Breaking the Story

An engrossing and entertaining play about a female war correspondent which can’t make up its mind whether it is a comedy-drama, a rom-com, a political diatribe or a play of idea.

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Louis Ozawa and Maggie Siff in a scene from The Second Stage production of Alexis Scheer’s “Breaking the Story” at the Tony Kiser Theater (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

Alexis Scheer’s Breaking the Story has a great deal going for it: colorful characters, a talented cast including Maggie Siff, Julie Halston and Matthew Saldívar, astute direction by Jo Bonney, an interesting premise. What it doesn’t have is a clear message or theme. The Second Stage production is an engrossing and entertaining play which can’t make up its mind whether it is a comedy-drama, a rom-com, a political diatribe or a play of idea.

Maggie Siff plays Marina Reyes, a celebrated war correspondent, who has returned to Massachusetts to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Foreign Correspondent’s Society. After 20 years on the front lines in which she has been injured, kidnapped and bombed many times, she has decided to retire to her new estate in Wellesley near where she grew up. With her is her cameraman Bear who can’t wait to get back to work. Also expected is her mother known as Gummy, her college-aged daughter Cruz, and her best friend Sonia. Unknown to Marina, her rival Nikki and her ex-husband Federico are also on the way, Nikki to introduce her at the award ceremony and Fed to try and win her back. Nikki is also here to get the inside scoop on Marina for a podcast celebrating her life and work. (What is the true story of Marina and the Sapphire Hotel bombing?)

Julie Halston and Maggie Siff in a scene from The Second Stage production of Alexis Scheer’s “Breaking the Story” at the Tony Kiser Theater (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

When Marina and Bear decide to get married the same weekend while the friends and family are visiting, Sonia goes into high gear to plan the perfect wedding. Cruz, whose one song as a rock singer has gone viral, announces that she is planning a gap year and not starting college. Gummy who is apolitical (“Why can’t we ever have a normal conversation? Why does it always have to be news, war, politics, your generation, my generation, blah blah”) finally tells Marina how painful the latest news of her having gone missing has been for her and no one believes that Marina is retiring to live in the suburbs.

The dialogue is smart and sophisticated. The author’s unfocused theme seems to be the conflict between Marina and Nikki as to journalistic ethics. Marina believes in reporting the story whatever it is and let the audience decide. Nikki only reports on people and stories she can champion not wanting to give an outlet to evil-minded people. (There is something to be said for both points of view.) However, Scheer doesn’t take this argument very far and drops it quickly each time the two reporters clash without a resolution. The playwright also flirts with the idea that the danger of her work is adrenaline for Marina who couldn’t live without it, rather than just obtaining and breaking the story. Aside from the obvious meaning of the title, Nikki wants to name her podcast on Marina “Breaking the Story: The Life of Marina Reyes.”

Matthew Saldívar and Maggie Siff in a scene from The Second Stage production of Alexis Scheer’s “Breaking the Story” at the Tony Kiser Theater (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

The play is periodically punctuated by Marina’s flashbacks to the war zones she has visited. She is obviously suffering from PTSD of her time under bombardment which her friends and families do not seem to notice. This is created by Darron L. West’s sound effects as well as Elaine J. McCarthy’s wrap-around projections on many panels across the back of the stage. The play’s ending should seem inevitable but seems to throw a different light on the events that have taken place before.

This is the sort of play where the minor characters are more interesting than the leads but all of them are created with less information than we need to know. Where have Marina and Bear been? No war zones are mentioned and their experiences seem rather generic. What does Sonia do for a living: is she a wedding planner, a philanthropist or something else? Does Cruz live with her father while her mother is out of the country or does he travel to the front lines as well? Several of the unusual names are distracting. We never learn what Bear is a nickname for though Fed finally turns out to be short for Federico.

Maggie Siff and Geneva Carr in a scene from The Second Stage production of Alexis Scheer’s “Breaking the Story” at the Tony Kiser Theater (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

Siff is strong but bland as Marina, never giving us a clear take on this character. Bear as played by Louis Ozawa is nothing more than a foil to Marina, though he is clear headed, realistic and rational. Geneva Carr’s Sonia is vivacious, acerbic, efficient and dogmatic. As always Julie Halston steals every scene she is in as Marina’s funny, eccentric and clamorous mother who has apparently gone through a great deal because of her. Tala Ashe’s Nikki is ambitious, devious and verbose, hiding her real motives in a barrage of words. As Marina and Fed’s daughter Cruz, Gabrielle Policano is wise beyond her years in the way of teenagers today and with a sensible point of view about life. Matthew Saldívar, Marina’s ex-husband and a famed news anchor, is given short shrift in his one scene where he holds his own against her fast repartee.

The unit set by Myung Hee Cho is an expansive green lawn representing the grounds of Marina’s expensive new estate with two archways standing in for the house. McCarthy’s projections occasionally show nature in various parts of the property. The setting allows for easy transitions of scenes but is low on atmosphere although we are reminded that Marina has just bought the house and garden and has not put her imprint on either. Emilio Sosa’s costumes help define the characters almost more than the script.

Gabrielle Policano and Maggie Siff in a scene from The Second Stage production of Alexis Scheer’s “Breaking the Story” at the Tony Kiser Theater (Photo credit: Joan Marcus)

Alexis Scheer whose previous New York shows (Our Dear Dead Drug Lord and the Broadway adaptation of the musical Bad Cinderella) have veered toward the political seems to have been unable to define her goals in this play. Nevertheless, director Jo Bonney has made this a lively animated conversation piece in which a great many provocative ideas are given voice. The cast is spirited and energetic though the message is unclear. This is an entertaining play on many modern subjects which does not seem to have reached its full potential.

Breaking the Story (through June 23, 2024)

The Second Stage

Tony Kiser Theater, 305 W. 43rd Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, call 212-541-4518 or visit http://www.2St.com

Running time: 85 minutes without an intermission

Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

About Victor Gluck, Editor-in-Chief (990 Articles)
Victor Gluck was a drama critic and arts journalist with Back Stage from 1980 – 2006. He started reviewing for TheaterScene.net in 2006, where he was also Associate Editor from 2011-2013, and has been Editor-in-Chief since 2014. He is a voting member of The Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle, the American Theatre Critics Association, and the Dramatists Guild of America. His plays have been performed at the Quaigh Theatre, Ryan Repertory Company, St. Clements Church, Nuyorican Poets Café and The Gene Frankel Playwrights/Directors Lab.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.