We will not make the tragedy of this child's death easy for you. We will not stage gratuitous violence. We will not erase the flagrant racism of the environment that justified his murder. We will celebrate, with heavy hearts, the dignity and grace of a child who paid the price for our nation's tolerance of hatred and discrimination. It will be what you have come to expect from Penumbra Theatre Company, a frank and unflinching depiction of issues that urgently need our attention.I admit I didn't know many of the details about Emmett Till's life and death (read more about it here), so it was quite educational for me. But this is not a dry and sober history lesson, it's an entertaining and captivating play, a celebration of life and family, with wonderful music (music direction by Sanford Moore). You almost forget the tragic ending looming over the story as you get to know these characters and share in their life and family. But it all comes crashing down when Emmett is taken, and we see scenes of the torture, Emmett's mother's reaction, the trial and its aftermath.
|Darrick Mosley as Emmitt Till|
with Greta Oglesby, T. Mychael Rambo,
and Shá Cage
The simple but effective set (by Maruti Evans) consists of a raised platform in the center of the stage, and wooden planks on the walls upon which are written the words of the murderers who, after being acquitted of the crime and therefore protected by double jeopardy, admitted that they killed Emmitt in an interview with Look magazine. It's quite sobering to watch Emmitt's story play out surrounded by those hateful words.
The Ballad of Emmett Till is a beautiful, tragic, spirited, and very well-done play. Emmett's final words to the audience are, "Is it done?" That is a question to ponder. (Playing now through March 2 at Penumbra Theatre.)