Sunday, February 25, 2024
Talkin’ Broadway


Until the Flood by Dael Orlandersmith is a powerful and thought-provoking drama that uses actual conversations to delve into the complex issues of race, identity, and community in America. Set against the backdrop of the August 9, 2014, Ferguson, Missouri, killing of Michael Brown, a Black teenager, by white police officer Darren Wilson, the play weaves together the voices of various characters to explore the underlying tensions and systemic racial injustices that continue to plague society. Stray Cat Theatre is presenting the Arizona premiere of this intriguing and engaging work that features a remarkable performance by Ryan L. Jenkins as all of the characters in the piece.

...Under Elena Conti's impressive direction, with just a change in her vocal inflection, body language, and facial expressions, along with an added costume piece or prop, Ryan L Jenkins' tour de-force performance breathes life into each of the individuals in the piece. From a retired white police officer grappling with his role in perpetuating racial bias to a young Black teenager who lived in the apartment complex as Brown who is struggling to just make it one more year until he can move away from the area to go to college in California, Orlandersmith's characters are fully realized and deeply human through Jenkins's majestic delivery. I've seen Jenkins in several plays across the Valley and, while she's always been wonderful, she is truly superb here.

Tiana Torrilhon-Wood's minimalistic set design, which sets the characters' monologues in and around a shrine to Brown composed of candles, signs, and stuffed animals, allows the audience to focus squarely on the words and emotions of the characters. Stacey Walston's subtle lighting shifts also force attention on Jenkins and the character-appropriate costumes by Jessie Tully, Dawn Conry's effective props, and the evocative sound design by Brianna Fallon, immerse the audience in the storytelling.

...the impact of Until the Flood is undeniably powerful and Ryan L. Jenkins' performance will be remembered for years to come. The play is an important and timely piece of theatre that will, most likely, challenge the audience to confront their own views and feelings on racism, Brown's killing and, unfortunately, so many other killings of Black individuals by white people in the almost ten years since this incident happened.