Friday, September 2, 2016

Objectively/Reasonable, Playwrights Local

Is it really less than two years since 12-year-old Tamir Rice was shot and killed by a Cleveland policeman? In some ways, it seems like two decades ago, what with all the ensuing tragedies and protests arising from the lethal shootings of black citizens by officers sworn to protect and serve.

This play, which closes on Sunday, is structured as a community response to the killing of Rice, which many consider a form of legalized murder and others regard as a justifiable response to a threatening situation.

The project was developed by five local playwrights who are involved in the Playwrights Local here in town. Based on extensive interviews with people in the community, the play is often powerfully evocative and deeply earnest, as it sketches the person Tamir was, his relationship with his family and mother Samaria, and the reactions of official and unofficial Cleveland to his death.

The playwrights—Mike Geither, Tom Hayes, Lisa Langford, Michael Oatman and David Todd—each have notable achievements in theater, and their skills are on full display here.  Presented as a series of vignettes, most of them directly addressing the audience, the sad reality of the shooting of this child is brought home with force.

Plus, director Terrence Spivey moves the ten actors around on the small Waterloo Arts stage inventively, employing dance, movement and drumming to give the staging a flow it otherwise would lack. And the African-American performers—Ashley Aquilla, Kaila Benford, India Burton, Samone Cummings, Ananias Dixon, Kali Hatten, Jameka Terri, LaShawn Little, Brenton Lyles and Nathan Tolliver—deliver their pieces with gravity and style.

However, the 90-minute piece feels a bit long and eventually quite repetitive, revisiting the same facts about the shooting multiple times. And the arrangement of the scenes feels a bit off at times, denying the audience a dramatic arc that might lend the proceeding even more devastating power. And one nit: Why the slash mark in the title? Those are the words used to excuse the shooting by police officials and they work devastatingly well as an adverb and noun, with no slash.

That said, this is a show that speaks from many broken hearts in our community, and it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible.

Produced by Playwrights Local at the Creative Space at Waterloo Arts, 397 E. 156 Street, 216-302-8856.

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