Barbara Frame reviews The Truth Game at Fortune Theatre, Saturday, October 8.
"Chad who?" asks Belinda.
She doesn't know that Chad is a country.
A "group strategy leader" for an international media company, she uses words like "synergies" and "paradigms", and is keen on "giving our customers what they want to read".
She represents the worldwide trend of packaging news, selling it as a commodity and keeping shareholders happy.
Dunedin playwright Simon Cunliffe's The Truth Game is set in a newspaper called The Advocate and focuses, as its oxymoronic title suggests, on the conflict between Belinda and aptly-named Frank Stone, a senior journalist who believes in intelligence, integrity and punctuation.
It's a play of big and very timely ideas, tackling the decline of newspapers in the context of multinational ownership and the twittering, bottom-feeding vacuity that masquerades as information.
Like any good newspaper, though, the play has its human side, and there is much interest in the complex personal relationships between Frank (Greg Johnson), Sam (Anna Henare), Ralph, pronounced Rafe (Peter Hayden), Bill (Phil Vaughan) and eager recruit Jo (Kathleen Burns).
If I have a quibble, it's that a small sub-plot involving Jo's parentage is distracting and adds little to the play.
Belinda (Michelle Amas) seems almost a caricature, but in a positive way, because her function is to personify the intellectual and moral deficiencies of some media capitalism.
Commendably, the Fortune Theatre has recognised an important play by a first-time playwright.
Lara MacGregor directs a stellar cast on a set designed by Matt Best, depicting a modern newsroom.
The production has been sponsored by the Otago Daily Times and is a significant contribution to its 150th anniversary celebrations.
The Truth Game is one of the very best New Zealand plays I've seen in recent years.
The issues it raises are serious and extend far beyond newspapers.