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Flashpoint: Mead Theatre Lab
Remaining performances (tickets available here): Tuesday, July 21 at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 21 at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 22 at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 22 at 8:30 p.m.
They say: Written and performed by Emmy Award-winning actor Ron Jones. Through a range of characters, original and historical footage, and music, Ron takes the audience on a journey through the ever-changing face of the African-American experience from voting rights to Baltimore.
Rachel M.’s take: “The Movement” is an apt title for this mostly one-man show tracing social justice for African-Americans (and the economically disadvantaged of all races) from the Civil Rights Act to that time ten days ago when the Confederate flag was taken down from the South Carolina State House flagpole. It paints the moral universe not as an arc, exactly, but something wider that ebbs and flows, moves in one direction and another simultaneously. “Progress” denotes moving along a line, but a movement will spread and grow. That’s how Ron Jones, performer and writer of this show, tells the story of the last 50 years in America.
As in, we see Martin Luther King assassinated, but also Bill Cosby as the first black lead actor in an American television drama (no mention of Cosby’s recent attentions, though). We see the significantly harsher punishments for crack cocaine possession than for powdered cocaine, we see the first black astronaut, we see Toni Morrison get the Nobel, we see the mug shots of the cops charged with killing Freddie Gray. This all runs chronologically in slides, with video clips to accompany events. Jones also constructs scenes around the history, playing several characters reacting to the events, sometimes interacting with each other.
The main through-line is “William‘s story,” about a baby born as the Civil Rights Act was passed, whose father tells him he was born at just the right time, who says he can hardly imagine the world William will inhabit. We check in periodically with William and his father as the torch is passed, and it’s quite touching when William realizes he doesn’t quite know what to do with it in this more-complicated world.
We hear also from a prisoner, a professor, a minister, and an exasperated KKK member, all of whom add shading to the history. The prisoner, for example, doesn’t rejoice when O.J. Simpson is found not guilty, because for him it’s not a black man beating the system but a rich man playing the system, as usual. William’s father and a neighbor have a conversation about leaving the inner city, suggesting economic segregation took over once official racial segregation was abolished.
That’s what’s most valuable about this show: the characters expressing personal reactions that tend to get left out of history books. The Movement is social history, more diffuse and complicated than timelines and dates.
[Note: this reviewer wrote about Ron Jones in his (and Andy Schlosberg‘s) 2013 Capital Fringe show, The Black-Jew Dialogues. She enjoyed 2015’s similarly edutaining show much more. In reviewing her review, however, she was surprised to read this line: “The show never really answers what happened to peace, love and understanding since the 1960s.” The Movement DOES address what happened to peace, love and understanding since the 1960s. That was just something this reviewer felt weird about. Okay, carry on.]
See it if: You missed Black History Month and need to catch up quick.
Skip it if: You’re all up to date on your social history.
Photo courtesy of Dialogues on Diversity