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A Truckload of Ink

The NOLA Project Takes on the Changing Media Landscape: Theatre Review

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This week saw the opening of Jim Fitzmorris' new play, A Truckload of Ink, written as a commission for The NOLA Project and performed at UNO's Nims Theatre. (Full disclosure: Fitzmorris is NOLA Defender's former drama critic).


The play follows the staff of an unnamed but rather popular New Orleans newspaper on the day they discover news of a drastic downsizing.


Sound familiar?


Throughout the play, witty banter both mocks and explains some of the nuances of rhetoric and journalism; we are also reminded of the difference between a story and how it's told.


As the play concerns itself with the loss of an institution and what that means for a city, the characters give the audience emotionally charged insight into interpersonal aspects of a changing journalism business.


The opening sequence -- the most fun by far -- centers around Fintan Murphy, a nostalgic retiring columnist who seems to only want share his stories of yesteryear.  Stunningly performed by Bob Edes, Jr., the soon to be retiree continues to be playful (and a bit drunk) until his confrontation with the cold-hearted Efficiency Expert (played by a calculated Tracey Collins).  We then see Fintan's true colors, as Edes delivers the play's biggest emotional punch in an extended monologue about cultivating relationships, learning to love to work together and the dangers of faceless efficiency.


When Murphy finishes, he appears to carry the paper for which he worked so hard along with him. It is a powerful moment, and the audience responded with strong, spontaneous applause.


The play continues with what one would imagine to be normal intra-newsroom dynamics: fighting over sources, general chatting, and some deep-rooted personal clashes. While as a whole the play focuses on changing dynamics in the media industry, it is through personal relationships and discussions that we really get a sense of its impact. After Fintan leaves and becomes some sort of specter of the past, characters develop until the inevitable, all too memorable bomb: the newspaper will print only a few times a week, effective immediately.



A character-driven work, the second act deals with the staff and their individual problems. The ensemble cast of 14 individuals is a tall order for any director, but this allows for rapid-fire exposition and true-to-life overlapping conversations and office dynamics.


Director Beau Bratcher does a fantastic job with timing, as nothing seems to be lost in such a big shuffle. From the two women sharing history with the star reporter to the gruff alcoholic editor to the wannabe hip newbie with outstanding college loans, the characters may seem pulled right from the well of the many great media movies and plays presented over the years. But the play does not feel impersonal.


On the contrary, Fitzmorris uses each character's column or history to create a relatable story for the viewer. At one point we even delve into the relationship of the "cooked" food writer (Matt Standley), and his relationship with his father.


While the beginning of the play belonged to Fintan, the second act becomes the pièce de résistance for Columnist Bevin Volpe.  With all his newsroom nattering performed convincingly by AJ Allegra, he delivers a political rant chiefly in opposition to the city's recent history of selling out to corporate interests.  He also makes fun of hipsters in the Bywater and rudely dismisses an ex-friend who is trying to help the emotionally-challenged reporter (he was the one with the two women and the one who stole the story).


While everything he says has a point, the monologue can be frustrating as an audience member, especially as this smarmy character convinces himself that he wins in the end, even while walking off admitting his absent friend was correct about his abominable behavior.


Throughout the play, he angrily brings critiques, refuses to listen, and drips with self-righteousness; taken in consideration with the fact that he brings up some of the strongest arguments, we are left with a skeptical taste of this troubled, yet well informed character. Are we supposed to be on his side just because he's the most analytically gifted?


Several references to politics and bars root this play in post-Katrina New Orleans.  And like we learned in the Flood, there is nothing like an overhead disaster to bring people together. Though some characters never reconcile, camaraderie seems to grow. The production considers the future of journalism and specifically the future of journalism in New Orleans with a vested interest and distinct theatrical talent.


For those used to performances downtown and in the Marigny, this production offers a welcome change of scenery and strong self-promotion as "professional." The $25 ticket price is a bit steep, potentially limiting its audience, but ultimately worthwhile for those who can afford it.  Also, get there early, as UNO can be difficult to navigate in the dark and there are (as of Thursday) no play-specific signs.


A Truckload of Ink runs Wed.-Sat., through Sept. 21. Tickets are $15 on Wednesdays, and $25 on other performance days. All shows are at 7:30 p.m. To purchase tickets, visit The NOLA Project website, or call 504-280-SHOW. 


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Renard Boissiere, Evan Z.E. Hammond, Naimonu James, Wilson Koewing, J.A. Lloyd, Nina Luckman, Dead Huey Long, Alexis Manrodt, Joseph Santiago, Andrew Smith, Cynthia Via, Austin Yde


Art Director

Michael Weber, B.A.


Listings Editor

Linzi Falk

Editor Emeritus

Alexis Manrodt

B. E. Mintz

Stephen Babcock

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