Roger doesn't tell Rodney's story in a linear fashion, but rather in an impressionistic sort of way. Standing barefoot on a bare stage in the middle of a square of light, speaking into a hand-held microphone with a long cord, and using a combination of poetry, spoken word, rhythm and rhyme, repeated phrases, singing, rapping, and an intensely felt physicality, he makes this a visceral experience for the audience. In just over an hour, we travel with him to that fateful night when police officers struck Rodney 56 times with a baton, that just happened to be caught on videotape by someone in a nearby apartment. Then we're right in the middle of the riots as Roger tells the brutal and heart-breaking stories of just a few of the 53 people who were killed. He ends the show with Rodney's famous "can we all get along speech," beautifully delivered. This show is completely engaging and you feel like you're right there in the midst of the violence, which is not a comfortable place to be.
|Roger Guenveur Smith in Rodney King|
If you can get to Penumbra in the next two weeks, I highly recommend you spend an hour remembering Rodney King. Partly for the importance and relevance of the story, and also to witness Roger Guenveur Smith's masterful performance of this artfully constructed and utterly captivating piece of theater. I think the super-talented Dennis Spears, who happened to be sitting behind me, said it best. As the theater went dark and Roger left the stage, he uttered a simple two-syllable "damn." That pretty much says it all.
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.