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‘Twilight’ thrills

Published: Friday, December 13, 2013

Updated: Friday, December 13, 2013 17:12


Qing Huang

“Big Al,” played by Zadia Saunders, performs her sequence during the play “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” at Knox Center on Thursday.

The drama department’s production of “Twilight: Los Angeles 1992” hit the Knox Center Saturday night.

So does Tyrone Davis’ directorial debut light a candle next to the original award-winning performances Anna Deavere Smith’s executed more than 10 years ago? I have no idea, but Davis’ rendition opened my eyes and made me ask myself a lot of hard questions concerning racism and social injustices still plaguing society in 2013.

The play opened with footage taken from the scene of the beating of Rodney King by Los Angeles police officers. It is very graphic and caused some gasps from the audience.

The stage then darkened and a spotlight revealed a single actor performing essentially one side of an interview, hence, the “documentary theater” description.

As the spotlight dimmed and reappeared showcasing a different character, the re-enacted stories evolved from performance to a gut-wrenching reality the world faced in the 1992 riots following the King beating and acquittal of the officers who inflicted it.

Between scenes, footage was showcased on a screen atop the stage. Once the stage was slightly illuminated, a scene of destruction and chaos was portrayed with actors demonstrating the utter anarchy that broke loose in L.A.

Goosebumps covered my arms as my eyes felt heavy with tears. As the stories were revealed, many of the performers spoke from a place deep within their bones, and I momentarily forgot I was viewing a play and not hearing the stories from the actual survivors and participants Smith originally interviewed almost 20 years ago.

Elvira Evers, played by Kiwi-Akhira Waqia, told the story of a woman caught in a cross fire lucky to survive by the mere chance her unborn daughter caught the bullet in her elbow from inside Evers’ womb. Waqia’s performances were astounding as both Elvers and a chairperson for Free the L.A. Four Plus Defense Committee.

Charmain Turner was another performer who weighed heavy on my mind. She showed an incredible range of ability as her dialect and mannerisms adapted to form unique characters with no resemblance to any of the three women she played.

I was thoroughly impressed by every actor who displayed a slice of their heart in a story of truth and reality.

Umi Grant, as Mayor Tom Bradley, wept on stage.

Tito Cano’s Rudy Salas Sr. comes to mind, as his performances broke up the despair with adorable dancing. Julia Bourey, as Elaine Young, brought laughter as the self-involved real estate agent.

The costumes by Miguel Garcia were on point for 90s attire from white middle class to the head of the Black Panther Party (Elaine Brown played by Zadia Saunders).

Despite the costumes taking the setting back 20 years, the play remained very relevant exposing many truths and concerns racism afflicts on society today.

All in all, Davis was successful at creating scenes that expose a relevant topic today. His hopes to “break the silence about race and encourage others to take part in the dialogue” will begin with every person who attended this performance. 

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