“Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” isolates voices from the riot

“From an early age, I realized I had an enemy.”

On April 29, 1992, a jury acquitted three police officers in the beating of Rodney King. Los Angeles erupted into violence, a riot so destructive and severe that it’s still talked about 25 years later.

Anna Deavere Smith sifted through the noise. She conducted hundreds of interviews, then used excerpts to tell real, personal stories of the build-up, chaos and aftermath.

Originally conceived as a one-woman tour de force, PPCC’s production splits the monologues between 24 actors, supplemented by real footage against the backdrop. We don’t have room to spotlight all the fantastic performances, but a few demand praise:

Dionne Howell projects warmth and disarming grace as a pregnant shooting victim.

David Brown shows riveting restraint as “force expert” Sgt Charles Duke.

Dejanique Calloway teases out laughs (the play is funnier than you’d think) as she dissects the hypocrisy of news coverage once the looting reaches high-end stores.

Carmina Paner and Tristan Hilleary force you to reckon with the Korean perspective, communicating astonishing hurt, anger and empathy through their characters’ broken English.

Kwamain Hall ends the show with a glimmer of hope, noting, “I can’t forever dwell in the darkness.”

© Elizabeth Montoya Photography

Throughout the night, High Altitude Dance Ensemble punctuates themes of injustice, brutality and social protest. Their athletic performances demonstrate solid core training and well-rehearsed synchronization. The final dance, “I Can’t Breathe,” uses protest imagery from Black Lives Matter to reflect on the continuing struggle for justice and peace.

It’s a fascinating, uncomfortable, deeply human experience.

Additional Notes:

As a Cornel West fan, it’s intriguing to hear Sean Hoskins bring a highbrow, dare we say post-Obama cadence to the scholar’s words. He does a great job making the sermon his own.

The microphones struggle at times to pick up the actors’ voices. They handle the inconsistency with poise, so just roll with it and sit up close.

“Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” contains harsh language, riot footage and stories of inhuman violence.

PPCC Theatre & Dance Dept
PPCC Centennial Campus Theater
5675 S Academy Blvd

Playing November 30 – December 2, 2017
Admission: Free
Running Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes

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