Hot off the presses

Reporter Girl

By Laura Rohrman
Directed by Li Murillo
Etcetera Theatre Company
Creative Place Theatre
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Elias Stimac

Reporter Girl is a dramatic work based on the creator of the comic strip "Brenda Starr Reporter." Laura Rohrman's fictionalized account has more than a ring of truth to it -- the syndicated artist was her real-life grandmother, Dale Messick.

Set in the late '30s and '40s, the work uses both history and fantasy to tell Messick's story. Dale was initially portrayed by Betty Hudson as an elderly woman being cared for by her daughter Starr (Amy Dickenson) and serving as an inspiration for her equally driven granddaughter Melanie (Elise Falanga). But flashbacks bring back the vibrant Dale of the 1930s and '40s, who also stands in as a flesh-and-blood version of pulp heroine Brenda Starr.

Marilyn Harris captures the independent verve and vigor of the younger woman and her headstrong creation, even when she is being seduced by an ace reporter (Chad Brigockas) or mentored by her tough-as-nails editor (McCredy Baker). Brigockas and Baker were perfectly cast in their period roles.

Hudson also made a lasting impression as the older Messick, displaying bursts of wit and energy while in her frail state. Dickenson had a touching scene as a frightened youngster watching her parents argue, and Falanga was feisty as the modern-day Web reporter.

The rest of the cast did a credible job of playing the other people in Dale's life -- Michael Dermansky as an abusive husband and April Preveteaux as a troublesome co-worker.

Li Murillo staged the proceedings with creativity, even within the limited surroundings of the minimal set. One side of the stage served as the past, the other the present, helping viewers keep track of time and place. Marisol Lopez is responsible for the functional lighting for the show.

If there was a drawback to the project, it was that Rohrman's script became a bit preachy and sentimental at times. Better to let the audience admire Messick by showing her achievements rather than reminding us over and over how much of a pioneer she was in her field and in the history of women.

The evening also featured another short play, Minneapolis Bride, written and directed by Jaime Robert Carrillo. This moody piece focuses on a reluctant bride (Andrea Berkowitz) and her ex-boyfriend (Ismael "Izzy' Ruiz, Jr.), whom she has asked to be her maid of honor. Unfortunately, the groom-to-be (Greg Murnion) is not at all happy with that arrangement. The performers gave the piece its fair share of poignant moments under Carrillo's tender pacing, with Anna Stumpf standing out (so to speak) as a midget aunt who helps with the ceremony and the soul-searching.

  Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2004 Elias Stimac