[NoHo Arts District, CA] – A NoHo Arts theatre review of Cyndy A. Marion’s Broken Story directed by Tamara Rappart, produced by New York City’s White Horse Theater Company in association with 134 West, and running through November 27 at The Sherry Theater.
This is the West Coast premiere of Cyndy A. Marion’s Broken Story brought to L.A. by White Horse Theater Company, based in New York. The play is inspired by the murder of writer Susan Berman and her friendship with serial killer Robert Durst. But, it really is a tale all its own. A young ambitious journalist, Jess, has always been a fan of the novelist Jane Hartman, almost obsessively so. When she hears of her murder, she takes the first plane she can find to L.A. and goes directly to the novelist’s home to investigate. She finds the crime scene unlocked and unattended and, as she walks through the home of her lifelong fascination, we can immediately sense that there is far more to this story than first meets the eye.
The play moves back and forth between Jess’s present day and Jane’s life leading up to her death. Although the two never met, there is clearly some deep connection, an ease between them, and a familiarity that makes the flipping through time and the conversations between them seem natural rather than supernatural. As Jess looks through the home hoping to find answers, Jane’s manager climbs through an open window in the hopes of doing the same. Jane’s best friend also makes an appearance and, before too long, the life of Jane Hartman is playing out in vivid detail on stage.
There’s a sort of symbiotic duality in the drama from the very start. An intriguing meta specificity to every line, every nuance of each encounter.
The writer Cyndy A. Marion very cleverly leads us through the lives of everyone important, coloring each meeting between the characters lightly, allowing them to unfold little by little. Never beating us over the head with anything too obvious or banal.
And so we are drawn further and further into the story, unable to look away for even a moment for fear of missing some vital clue, some detail that will unlock everything.
This is an exquisitely crafted play supported by truly masterful performances, and the layered and secretive universe it creates is as intense as it is compelling.
The fourth wall is well and truly broken, and with it plenty of other rules of reality. But there’s no gimmick at work. Nothing but brilliant characters and suspenseful drama. There’s a whiff of Agatha Christie, a soupçon of Hitchcock a dash of “The Usual Suspects.” But all that beguiling reference is woven subtly, a mere undertow, a subconscious elemental.
I absolutely loved Broken Story and happily stayed for a talk-back after the show with the producer and writer. Both are brilliant, strong and utterly committed to their art, but not in a stuffy way, it’s far more magical than that. They are driven to tell the stories that obsess them, as are the central characters of the play. Jane the writer and Jess the journalist. And in the end, isn’t that exactly how we all should be?
Broken Story is playing for one more weekend and the lovely Sherry Theater in NoHo. These brisk evenings seem perfectly timed for a crime drama such as this. Miss it at your peril!
The cast will feature Liana Aráuz (Detained at The Fountain Theatre; Good and Sex Day with IATI), Lynn Adrianna Freedman (Madolina Colombo in The Offer), Lindsay Danielle Gitter (Dress of Fire with Austin Pendelton, Off-Broadway), David Hunter Jr. (Steal Away: The Living History of Harriet Tubman at Hollywood Fringe), and Rod Sweitzer (Foote Notes & The Idiot Box with Open Fist).
The Creative Team:
The creative team will include Set Design by Andis Gjoni (West Side Story and Kiss Me Kate with the National Opera Theater of Albania), Lighting Design by Katelan Braymer (Drift, Time, and 90Sugar at The Wallis), Costume Design by Derek Nye Lockwood (international tour of Legally Blonde; Wardrobe Supervisor on HBO’s Gossip Girl), Sound Design by Andy Evan Cohen (The Orchard with Mikhail Baryshnikov and Jessica Hecht, Off-Broadway), Composer Joe Gianono (whose work is frequently featured on WQXR, the premier classical music station), Projection Polaroid Photography by Gail Thacker (whose work is included in collections at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, The Institute of Contemporary Art, and The Museum of the City of New York), Dramaturgy by Linda S. Nelson (dramaturge for playwright/novelist Cailin Heffernan, screenwriter Michael Lee Stever, and playwrights Roman Feeser, Bob Ost, and Phil Olson). The production Stage Manager will be Hannah Raymond with Assistant Stage Manager Brandi L. Johnson.
Running through November 27
11052 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601