Although we have visited Harlequin in Olympia for more than twenty years, we didn’t really know what to expect with this presentation. We were using this production to introduce my cousin, Lavinia Hart to a different local theatre. Lindy has originated and run a successful theatre in Detroit plus taught drama and directing at Wayne State University. She has now moved home to the Puget Sound area where she grew up.
We were ushered into the theatre and climbed one row short of the top row. This gave us a view downward to the stage, a bird’s eye view of the action on stage, but also let us comfortably see slide projections on either side of the stage.
We arrived fairly early and watched the people as they entered the theatre, climbed the stairs and took their seats. In my memory I see most of the patrons as white . . . with white or graying hair. Shortly before the play began five men took the seats directly in front of us. Luckily the tallest sat just forward of my chair. I could see both over him and around him. All five were Black. I couldn’t believe our luck. The show we were about to see was about prejudice, social injustice, hate, and death. The theatre was not sold out for this performance; there were perhaps 70 people there to view an unusual production that involved a clash of white police and two young black men, which left one of them dead.
The play is a result of recorded interviews. Through those interviews, six actors/characters encapsulated their thoughts, reasonings, and questions into powerful soliloquies that reveal their own actions.
Louisa, played by Michelle Blackman, started us off with an easy manner and concerns. She returns near the end for the wrap up. Michelle has been an actress, director, choreographer, and theatre arts instructor, and more. Like most of the actors involved, she is Seattle based. The Harlequin seems to have just skipped over Tacoma actors entirely, which is a little strange. I have seen a number of Tacoma actors perform in Olympia at Harlequin. My guess is that there are more people of color on stage in Seattle than there are in Tacoma.
Reuben, played by Vincent Orduna, delivers an excellent message as a Black barber who as a successful entrepreneur owns his building with apartments upstairs, as well as other properties in the area. Reuben is an advocate of Black community efforts. Vincent has acted at Book-It in Seattle, one of our favorite theatres, as well as other Seattle area theatres.
Gerald B. Browning plays two different parts and has one of the most painful presentations as a white father harassing and urging his very young son to take violent vengeance against a Black child. We saw Gerald in the excellent production of “The Highest Tide” at the start of the pandemic. He also was the Properties Designer of “Noises Off”, also at Harlequin.
Brandon JonesMooney, again via Seattle, gives a fantastic performance as an angry and scared young Black man. From the responses of the five young Black theatre goers directly in front of us, I assume they were there to support their friend. As we left the theatre they remained in the lobby, which usually means they were waiting for their friend.
The play was directed by Faith Bennett Russell, a Jamaican-African American from Brooklyn, New York. She has many local credits including Book-It, ACT, Taproot, and more. I think she did a wonderful job with the pacing and delivery. She, with Jeannie Beirne (Scenic Design), and Sara Gray (Costume Design) all did a fine job. The show moves smoothly along with no intermission. I wish more theaters did this. Once a good play grabs and holds your interest, why stop? With “Until the Flood” it was the perfect way to deliver a message.
“Until the Flood” was commissioned and produced by The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. It has been produced in a number of cities across the United State as well as in Ireland, Scotland, and England. Pulitzer-prize nominated playwright Dael Orlandersmith wrote the script. “She fashioned a sensitive and moving portrayal of the people in the St. Louis community, and how they feel about an event that placed St. Louis in a spotlight it didn’t expect or relish.” – Wikipedia
“On Aug. 9, 2014, Michael Brown and a friend were walking in the middle of Canfield Drive, a two-lane street in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, when a police officer drove by and told them to use the sidewalk. After words were exchanged, the white officer confronted the 18-year-old Brown, who was black. The situation escalated, with the officer and Brown scuffling. The officer shot and killed Brown, who was unarmed.” – apnews.com/article/shootings-police-us-news-st-louis-michael-brown-9aa32033692547699a3b61da8fd1fc62
Matthew 24:39 “They didn’t know what was happening until the flood came and swept them all away. The coming of the Human One will be like that.” – Common English Bible
“The thing about the piece: it is not about who is right or who is wrong,” playwright Dael Orlandersmith said. “That’s not what I am interested in. I just want to look at how this shooting affected people across the board. The characters are composite figures, it is not verbatim. It is still about theater from me.”
Currently “Until the Flood” is being presented in repertory. For more information and ticket availability please visit Harlequin Productions – harlequinproductions.org/