Thursday, January 30, 2020

UNTIL THE FLOOD at the Kirk Douglas

Polonius: "What do you read...?" 
Hamlet: "Words, Words, Words.."  

Highly decorated Dael Orlandersmith's words flow in her one person presentation of "Until The Flood." We hear a recorded police dispatch that may be the actual call between the police dispatcher in Ferguson, Missouri and Darren Wilson, the street officer who is about to shoot and kill Michael Brown, Jr.. The call is underscored with closed caption text. Brown allegedly walked out of a convenience store in Furgeson with "a box of Swisher cigars"  midday, August 9, 2014 without paying. The text of the radio exchange is projected on Takashi Kata's lush, dramatic back drop. And, so we begin.
Dael Orlandosmith photo Ed Kreger

Ms Orlandersmith presents the ethos and pathos of folks' reactions to the events of August, 2014,  when Ferguson, became an epicenter of national attention following the shooting death of Michael Brown.

What's missing here is action. As Orlandersmith, in her first characterization, a retired school teacher, slowly plumps into a worn easy chair, she addresses the audience. Ennui slowly descends.  She goes on to introduce us to a white cop, a hip teen whose rambling banter is difficult to understand: becoming other characters, culminating with the actor as herself down center sincerely addressing the audience:  the cascade of her beautiful braids unfurling.  It's all words.  

The polemic of Orlandersmith's beautifully written stories are, arguably, extremely important in these days of whiplash media: television and the internet slapping the public silly. Certainly now is truly a time to reflect. 

In fairness, it's important to note that the actor's words do, indeed, tell her stories, but the virtual dearth of movement made it difficult to stay politely awake.   Theatre requires action and interaction:   invigorated movement to advance ideas forward.  Had director Neel Keller prompted more robust action: more frequent, even  volatile projections with bursts of sounds to underscore Orlandersmith's text, this important presentation may have been elevated well beyond her words.

Do I recommend this play? Is this writer/performer a dynamic personality? Should we be aware that there's street justice afoot that is sinking our country into an abyss fueled by bigotry? Of course!  But, Please: VOLUME UP!

The impressive set and hundreds of street memorials surrounding the stage,  tributes that we see almost daily in Los Angeles, elevate the piece.  The tragedy of our times must be told.  I would have loved the opportunity to  read this play. 
To have read the words.

 Until The Flood

Written and Performed by 
Dael Orlandersmith
Kirk Douglas Theatre  
9820 Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90232 
Through February 23, 2020
Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m.  
Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m.  
Sunday at 1 and 6:30 p.m. 
 No Monday performances.

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