The Riveting Uncomfortable Truth

killmoveparadise_1a0661-1024x731The fabric of our society as African Americans have not been woven together in America's institution of being created equally. Due to the inequality of being treated unfairly and unjustly. The systematic nature of violence that has embedded blacks in this country has a long lineage of hatred, which is steadily increasing within the numbers of death against blacks. And yes, black on black crime is a troubling issue in America, no matter how you look at it or what institutionalized reasons have caused these killings, it has to stop. With this said, are blacks indiscriminately killed, or are there being targeted systematically?

In response to the Charleston shootings and the growing epidemic of police shootings of people of color, Timeline Theatre presents a story that is bold and conceptual and demands the audience to witness the plight of the black man in America. Kill Move Paradise pushes the envelope and forces white Americans to come into the light of racism and deal with it.

What seems to go unreported on US media outlets is the alarming statistics of white on white crime. Fellow Caucasians killed 2011, the most recent year for which data is available, a staggering 83 percent of white murder victims. And even though there are more Caucasians in the United States, 2016 FBI statistics show that white on white crime was equal to or higher than black on black crime.

Criminologist Richard Rosenfeld, a lead author of the NIJ paper at the University of Missouri–St Louis, states that white people both are murdering and getting murdered at strikingly increasing rates as well.

killmoveparadise_1a0118-731x1024On June 17, 2015, a white supremacist took the lives of nine black parishioners as they attended Bible study at one of the oldest and largest Black congregations in the nation. The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

1 in 1,000 black men and boys in the United States will die at the hands of a police officer. Police enforcement is 1.6% of all deaths of Black men between the ages of 20 and 24. They are killing people of color (Blacks, Latino, and Native American) men, women, and children at an alarming rate higher than their white peers. The deaths have become a day to day reality that people of color face within this country.

Inspired by the ever-growing list of murdered and unarmed black men and women, one of Philadelphia's most prolific and dynamic playwright James Ijames, known as the "Messy writer" who strives for excellence, gives us a new play "Kill Move Paradise."

This production is a story that is rich in poetic dialogue and where Ijames, wants its audience to see characters that paint a portrait of the slain, where four young black men without warning are ripped from the world, only to become stuck in the afterlife of purgatory. The men try to find peace and balance within their new state of being.

Timeline metamorphoses the stage into a black and white hazardous slope with a portal at the top, which is the way station between life and death where the characters come plummeting onto the stage. Although the set is minimalist, Ryan Emens (scenic designer) and Jason Lynch (lighting Designer) created the ramp so that Ijames gladiator arena can keep the audience focused on the performance and the text.

killmoveparadise_1b1443-1024x731Being ripped from their lives, the four men express their rage as they debate and dialogue, trying to reconcile their fate. Uncovering the scars that they have endured living in a racist country, they try to reconcile the seemingly endless racial injustice in America.

The opening scene with Isa (Kai A. Ealy), the first arrival, is disoriented but resolved to understand his surroundings. With a printer rattling off names of soon-to-be entrants, he can see the audience around him but contemplates why. Soon after, a dazed and confused Grif (Cage Sebastian Pierre) tumbles through seeking answers to why he is has fallen into this new darken paradise.

Daz (Charles Andrew Gardner) is the third man to arrive, but his entrance was through a magical pathway. As the door opens to bring him to his new resting place, he's irate wondering how did he land into the twilight zone. In an odd twist, he brought a lawn chair and commenced to tell them about all of the items stored inside from the latest widescreen television to the legendary blues singer Bessie Smith remains.

The last to arrive is Tiny (Trent Davis); he is the youngest. At first, his reaction is typical until he tries to go home, remembering what his mother told him about not interacting with people he didn't know. He tries to leave by repeatedly running up the steep slope. Being unsuccessful, he finally gives up, exhausted, and struggling to breathe.

Like each before him, Tiny shares a story about how they arrived. Carrying a toy gun, he shares that he saw someone get shot, which Ijames alludes to the real-life shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland in 2014. He had a toy gun playing with his friends in the park when a police officer shot and killed him. In this gripping scene, Tiny recants how he felt when his soul was ripped from his heart and how the blood felt gushing from his body, as he tries to deal with his new reality.

killmoveparadise_1b1615-1024x731A crumpled piece of paper is now on the set, and Isa reads what appears to be instructions to the guys to prepare them for their next journey. All of them have flashbacks about the moment their lives ended.

At different times, the characters observing the audience asks, "what are they doing?" Grif taunts and says they like to watch. The men break out in a smooth doo-wop song, choreographed by Breon Arzell, and perform the opening scene of The Bill Cosby show, which Tiny asks the audience, "Is this what you want," and "what are you afraid of?" This metaphor is a direct reference from Ijames, playing to the views of the white audience of blacks.

Wardell Julius Clark is a director known to give us the unapologetic truth on the contrary views regarding blacks with a keen direction. He brings out the reality of the uncomfortable facts by breaking down the conceptualization of Ijames's work. One scene that will cut you to the quick that cuts through the heart, mind, and soul of Black America are the reading of the names of senseless black murdered victims.

Names that are now forever embedded into a list of institutionalized violence are The Charleston Nine, (Tywanza Sanders, Susie Jackson, Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Ethel Lee Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman Singleton, Myra Thompson, and Clementa C. Pinckney). Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Laquan McDonald, and Tamir Rice. These fatal shootings victims' names included in the list of countless Black lives lost to the violent and oppressive system of white supremacists and police officers.

Clark puts together a very talented group of men. Trent Davis gave an unforgettable memorable performance as Tiny, Charles Andrew Gardner, as Daz was equally strong and Kai A. Ealy as Isa and Cage Sebastian Pierre as Grif rounded the ensemble with thought-provoking performances.

"Kill Move Paradise" is a challenging piece of work, and Ijames intends to show all sides of their humanity and identity as black men and boys in the theatre are gripping and riveting of the perils of being black living in white America. Chicago will be featuring another one of Ijames's play called "White" at Steppenwolf Theatre in May 2020,

Let's Play Recommends Kill Move Paradise but warns its audience that this in your face play will make some feel uncomfortable while others will be justly gratified that you can feel how they live every day.

Kill Move Paradise
By James Ijames
Directed by Wardell Julius Clark
February 12 – April 5, 2020

Filed under: ChicagoNow

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