In the play “How I Got That Story” by Amlin Gray, the cynical chief of a news wire service in a warzone sizes up his new reporter. “This is a man for TransPanGlobal,” the chief barks. “An impartial man. He views all sides and then he writes the truth as he believes it.”
The reporter rejects the choice of words. “Bob, I’m not sure I’d put it quite that way,” the reporter says. “I don’t think belief is too much help to a reporter. What I try to do is see, then write the truth — Bob — as I see it.”
As the play unfolds, that effort proves difficult. The audience watches the reporter seeks to discover truth amid the confusion of war. It’s a two-man play set in fictional Ambo Land, a pseudo-Vietnam. One actor, Brian Bielawski, plays the reporter. The other role, played by Greg Watanabe, encompasses 20 characters, including a teenage prostitute, salty-tongued G.I.s, the aforementioned news service chief and a bombastic lieutenant. The play whirls the green reporter through one surreal experience after another.
That charge to see first — not just to base a story on belief and preconception — is taken seriously offstage, too. Director Seema Sueko, staging this play this month at her Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company, is bringing in the people who lived this experience to critique and guide her and the actors.
Directors often research for months the background of the play they’re directing, the settings and ideas that might have inspired the playwright, the motivations for the characters’ attitudes.