A HUMAN INTEREST STORY (OR THE GORY DETAILS AND ALL), Walkabout Theater Company, at Breadline Theatre. Writer-director Carlos Murillo’s investigation into how television shapes our perception of America pivots around a real-life event: the suicide of Pennsylvania state treasurer R. Budd Dwyer, who blew his brains out during a televised press conference. Nearly 17 years later this grim footage is still circulating on the Internet. Imagining a chain reaction sparked by the news in homes across the country, Murillo darts back and forth between spare, fragmented vignettes: a husband and wife plunged further into marital discord, a teenage boy sexually aroused by the violence, a cat painting a series of Jackson Pollock-like canvases.
Murillo heightens the tension of his herky-jerky script with a staging hell-bent on uncovering its own seams. The Breadline’s traditional black box has been reconfigured so that the audience surrounds the cast in the center of the space. The disorienting effect is to suggest both watching TV and watching your own reflection in a mirror, in the form of watching the audience member sitting directly across from you. Moreover, Murillo flicks on the house lights between scenes while the cast members drop character and regroup. Unfortunately, as often as Murillo the playwright engages you with his narrative, Murillo the director keeps you at arm’s length, so the pendulum swings disconcertingly from cunning to off-putting and back again.