TARAJI P. HENSON
By Darlene Donloe
Taraji P. Henson is spreading her wings. The Academy Award and Emmy nominee has appeared in films (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and No Good Deed) and television (Boston Legal, Eli Stone). She recently completed a stint on the hit CBS television drama, Person Of Interest.
Now, she brings her versatile talent to the stage, starring in the world premiere of Above The Fold, written by Bernard Weinraub and directed by Steven Robman.
The show, currently running at the Pasadena Playhouse through Feb. 23, tells the story of Jane, an African American newspaper reporter from New York, who flies to a Southern university where three white fraternity boys have been accused of raping a young African American woman.
But, what the show is really about is a particular depiction of the world of journalism. Whether one is on the outside looking in or in the inside looking in, the result isn’t pretty. There are some blurred lines that question just how a story can be manipulated, especially when it’s written before all of the facts have been presented and investigated.
This story shows how, in her pursuit of getting the story and getting it first, this reporter walks a moral and professional tightrope.
TARAJI P. HENSON and MARK HILDRETH
Jane wants to move forward in her career, and feels this juicy story just might be her ticket to bigger and better assignments, including one in Afghanistan.
But first, she has to figure out who is telling the truth. Is it the three, white college boys or is it Monique (Kristy Johnson), an African American mother of two who works as a stripper.
The show, based on the notorious 2006 Duke lacrosse rape case, began as a HOTHOUSE at the Playhouse stage reading.
The title, Above The Fold, refers to the placement of a story on the front page of a newspaper – that is literally above the fold, thereby receiving a lot of attention.
Kudos to Robman who directed a tight, vivid, creative and sometimes intense production. The use of video and other technology helps to bring the production to life.
TARAJI P. HENSON and KRISTY JOHNSON
Good performances all around. Henson knows her way around the stage. Her acting is bright and fluid. Kristy Johnson, who plays Monique, the rape victim, nearly steals the show from Henson with a riveting portrayal. Joe Massingill, Kristopher Higgins and Seamus Mulchay, give solid performances as the three accused college students. Arye Gross, who plays Jane’s editor and Mark Hildreth, who plays a politician in the southern town running for re-election, are smart actors who kick their characters into second gear.
Overall Above The Fold is a fully enjoyable theatrical experience. The production is presented at a brisk pace and is peppered with interesting multi-media projections.
(l-r) TARAJI P. HENSON, SEAMUS MULCAHY, JOE
MASSINGILL and KRISTOPHER HIGGINS (seated)
Above The Fold, a World Premiere written by Bernard Weinraub and directed by Steven Robman, stars Academy Award-nominee Taraji P. Henson, Arye Gross, Kristopher Higgins, Mark Hildreth, Kristy Johnson, Joe Massingill and Seamus Mulcahy.
The Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, CA 91101; through Feb. 23; Tickets start at $38; For information: PasadenaPlayhouse.org or (626) 356-7529. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.
On the DONLOE SCALE: D (don’t bother), O (oh, no), N (needs work), L (likeable), O (OK) and E (excellent), Above the Fold get an E (excellent).