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The Great Wall Story

As print newspapers and magazines fade into oblivion and their transnational corporate owners scramble for online revenue models, Lloyd Suh's poignant comedy, based on actual events in Denver in 1899, strikes a number of meaningful chords.

(Left to right) Jacob Knoll as Al Stevens, Christopher Kelly as Jack Tournay, and Mike Hartman as (John King)
(L to R) Jacob Knoll as Al Stevens,
Christopher Kelly as Jack Tournay,
and Mike Hartman as (John King)
Photo: Vicki Kerr
Three Runyonesque reporters—Jack Tournay (Christopher Kelly), Al Stevens (Jacob Knoll), and John King (Mike Hartman)—get together on a slow news day and decide to invent a story that will help their three respective dailies sell some papers. They figure that, given the isolationist policies and sealed borders of China, they can get away with claiming the Great Wall is being torn down by a demolition team passing through Denver on their way to the Far East.

Merritt Janson as Harriet Sparrow and Mike Hartman as John King
Merritt Janson as Harriet Sparrow
and Mike Hartman as John King
Photo: Vicki Kerr
The story is picked up by the wire services and eventually reaches New York, leading Joseph Pulitzer (John Hutton) to dispatch his girl Friday, Harriet Sparrow (Merritt Janson), to Denver to get to the bottom of the story and help his chain beat William Randolph Hearst to the best toehold in the Denver market.

Between Tournay's soul-searching relationship with his son, Charles (Gabe Koskinen-Sansone), and Pulitzer's comments on the corrupt nature of the newspaper business, Suh provides us with all we need to know to extrapolate how present-day mass media, consolidated into just a few hands, manipulates information to support the corporate banking pyramid's scortched earth agenda.

(Left to Right) Gabe Koskinen-Sansone as Charles Tournay and Christopher Kelly as Jack Tournay
(L to R) Gabe Koskinen-Sansone as Charles Tournay
and Christopher Kelly as Jack Tournay
Photo: Vicki Kerr
Hartman, Knoll, and Larry Paulsen (who plays a host of absurd characters) provide a healthy portion of comedic relief. Janson has gobs of fun with Sparrow, making fools of the reporters. Hutton's dry take on Pulitzer delivers a wallop when he explains the bottom line in a world dominated by yellow journalism. Nice work by Koskinen-Sansone as the young boy.

(Left to right) Larry Paulsen as Morris and John Hutton as Joseph Pulitzer
(Left to right) Larry Paulsen as Morris
and John Hutton as Joseph Pulitzer
Photo: Vicki Kerr
Suh's snappy dialogue and the refined craft work—particularly the flavoring of Angela Balogh Calin's period costumes, El Armstrong's projected photographs from the era, and Gary Grundei's fin de siècle ragtime melodies—conjures an evocative portrait of the times.

The Denver Center Theatre Company's world premiere of Lloyd Suh's The Great Wall Story, directed by Art Manke, runs thorugh April 22nd. For tickets: 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org.

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