By Anna Deavere Smith
Directed by Jason Gerace
Produced by The Other Theatre Company
At Chopin Theatre, Chicago
Tedious enactment of personal interviews comes off as propaganda
It is difficult enough to recreate personal verbatim interviews when they are not recorded from the original and it seldom works if a woman “plays” a man or a white woman plays an African-American man or an Asian woman plays a white man, etc., etc. That is exactly what Jason Gerace’s cast has done with Anna Deavere Smith’s Twilight: Los Angles, 1992. Smith’s solo work is here mounted by six players: Mary Winn Heider, Leena Kurishingal, Tanya Thai McBride, Carolyn Molloy, Danielle Pinnock and Toya Turner. Having six women play men, other races, and other ethnics almost never works here due to poor accents and poor body language. Add the failure to identify many speakers, and we quickly get confused as to is talking.
What I did get was loads of comments about the LA Race riots in 1992 involving Rodney King as the verbatim dialogue details conflicting perceptions of race relations, ethic and class differences that were bent toward justifying rioting if a group feels dis-empowered. The poor execution of many of the re-enactments with that gimmicky cross-gender casting diluted from the show’s message. Why not cast a few men to play men? Having only woman didn’t work.
Act one droned on with much over-kill and act two tried to offer solutions to race differences but only came off as a ‘feel-good’ exercise. I am not a fan of theatre as a biased platform for propaganda. Acting out personal interviews quickly becomes tedious and when poorly presented, down right boring. I am perplexed that a new Equity Theatre company (The Other Theatre Company) would mount such a project as their initial Chicago offering?
I cannot see the worthiness of bringing back the horrors of a 1992 Race Riot in 2015. We do have our own contemporary injustices to deal with so why drudge up past problems? Better to find an actual dramatic play that ‘shows’ (dramatizes) the problem rather than ‘talks’ about it. I’d skip this one.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: January 27, 2015
For more info checkout the Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 page at theatreinchicago.com
At Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, Chicago, IL