Friday, May 5, 2017

Review of Eclipse Theatre Company's Force Continuum

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Force Continuum. It was by Kia Corthron and it was directed by Michael Aaron Pogue. It was about a young man named Dece (Sam Campbell III when I saw it, usually Maurice Demus, and played as a young man by Richard Hatcher) who was joining the family tradition of being a cop. His mom (Diana Coates), dad (Terence Sims), and grandfather (Lionel Gentle) were all cops and they were all affected by the way they were treated because they were black police officers. It is also the story of Mrai (Lanora TerraƩ Hayden) and Dray (Tyshaun Lang) who are a brother and sister who both are harmed in unlawful arrests. It is about racism, family, how difficult it is to be a police officer, and how dangerous it is to be an African American person. It made me feel very angry that people are actually treated the way they are in the show. The show had humorous and sweet moments, which makes you grow to love the characters and feel even more for them. It was super moving and had really great actors. I'm really glad I saw it.

Mrai and Dray I think had a really tight bond. They helped each other through everything, even though they also had a playful hatred for each other. Mrai was a teacher and she had a daughter named Nina, but she also had jobs other than that. Dray also really loves Nina. I really wish we had gotten to see him tell her a story like we hear he does. In one scene you see Mrai working on books written by fourth graders. Mrai and Dray are joking around about the books these kids wrote and it is super sweet to watch. But you see that Mrai is tired and overworked as well. I think this scene makes you really love these characters, so when anything bad happens to them it is even more devastating. They are not perfect people; they are just normal. I think imperfect characters are more relatable, and I really related to these two people, and I was mad when something bad happened to them when they were just trying to live their lives.

The dinner scene with young Dece and his family was really moving because you already knew what was going to happen to his parents because it was a flashback. You have already heard the older Dece talking about his parents' deaths. In the dinner scene, they were talking about what it is like to be a cop and how their day was. They just seemed like a normal family, but you knew that tragedy would strike soon, so it was sad to watch. The mother was sassy to her husband about getting more food. She said something along the lines of, "The kitchen is the first door on your left." I thought that was funny. His response is basically to get up and go as quickly as he can, which shows you he respects his wife and she doesn't take any crap. You find out that Dece has always wanted to be a cop because his parents were both cops. But whenever he says he wants to be a cop, everyone at school is like, "Why would you want to do that?" But when he says he wants to be a football player, everyone at school is like "Yeah. You should totally be a football player." That shows you that people in his community think that being a black cop is not a good idea at all, but being a football player is a great idea, even though it seems like being a football player is a lot less probable. I think it would be great to have better racial equality on the police force. In the play, they give you statistics about how in certain areas the population is dominated by African Americans but the police force is mostly white.

Dece had two partners in the course of the play. The first was a white man named Flip (Anthony Venturini) and he was racist but trying not to be. He makes decisions about how dangerous someone is based on the color of their skin and the neighborhood they were in. He was trying not to, but he still did. He doesn't think he is racist, but he is afraid other people do. You can see he has had good experiences with black people in his life because he is partnered with Dece, but he still seems kind of scared of them. You have sympathy for him, because he is clearly trying, but something has been engrained in his head that black people are dangerous. But you can't say, "Oh he's trying; it's fine" because he makes terrible decisions because of his racism. The system has failed him, but it doesn't fail him as much as it fails black people. That shows you the system needs to be changed. Dece's other partner is Cobbs (Hayden) who is basically a badass. She is brave and doesn't take any crap, but she still has good morals. When she sees two homeless people (Coates and Joe McCauley) fighting over a bench, she gets out of the car and deals with the situation so that both people aren't upset. On the force continuum scale she has not even gotten close to physical violence. She uses words to defuse the situation. Flip goes more quickly to pulling out his gun and his pepper spray. Cobbs actually uses the scale--not just going from talking to someone for a few seconds to shooting them. I think this scene shows that there are good cops out there that use the scale as it supposed to be used.

People who would like this show are people who like meaningful stories, realistic family dynamics, and reasonable badass female cops. I think this a really important and great show. It is such devastating and moving story. I'm so glad I got to see it.

Photos: Scott Dray

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