Review: Syracuse Stage Presents a Virtual Streaming Production of TWILIGHT: LOS ANGELES, 1992

Syracuse Stage never ceases to amaze me.

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Syracuse Stage never ceases to amaze me with their eye for productions, casting, and unique presentations. I have to say I was concerned when I saw that this streaming production was three hours long. However, it was three hours very well spent. Syracuse Stage's production of the stunning documentary drama Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 by Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize nominated playwright Anna Deavere Smith is beautifully and creatively directed by Steve H. Broadnax III.

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 was created based on more than 300 interviews the playwright Anna Deavere Smith conducted. Her show was a solo piece in which she starred in the world premiere at Los Angeles Mark Taper Forum in 1993. Her interviews were an interrogation of the events surrounding the brutal beating of a 26-year old black man, Rodney King, by officers of the Los Angeles police department on March 3, 1991. The assault was captured on tape revealing the disturbing beating as four officers repeatedly beat Rodney King with batons as he lay on the ground. The officers were charged with assault and were acquitted by a mostly white jury. The result caused major unrest in South Central Los Angeles leaving 63 dead and 2,000 injured and caused more than $1 billion in damage.

At the moment Syracuse Stage cannot bring actors into their theater to rehearse and perform. Thankfully, there is technology that allowed the cast, crew, and directors to work remotely. Three cameras and dual green screens were used to create this documentary style production. Zoom was used to work with people located in Chicago, Pennsylvania, New York City, and Syracuse to capture the memorizing performance of the one and only actress in the production, Patrese D. McClain who lives and performed in her Chicago home. The involved production result was worth all their effort because it showcases one of the most stellar performances of an actress I have seen.

The play consists of 37 characters and Patrese D. McClain takes each one with spot on detail and passion. The various "characters" consist of the "high and mighty to the obscure." Some characters were directly involved and some were just observers. Either way, each character offers their thoughts on the events of 1991 and 1992. Opera star Jessye Norman, former Senator Bill Bradley, liquor store owner Jay Woong Yahng, and Rodney King's Aunt Angela King are just a few of the characters that McClain portrays in her stellar performance. Through costume changes, various backdrops, accents, and just pure raw acting McClain portrays these 37 interviewed characters with such precision and detail. She truly captivates throughout the entire production from the passionate animated characters to the quieter ones. Her performance astounds.

All involved made this production mesmerizing. Scenic designer Michael Carnahan's use of the green screen to transform each character to a different space adds excitement and interest. Costume design by Emilio Sosa and wig design by Nikiya Mathis brings each individual character to life and allows for McCain to easily and clearly switch to a new "role." Dialect coach Christopher Berry provided guidance allowing for McCain to easily take on various accents from Korean, African, Mexican, and so many more. Kate Freer's video design resulted in an engaging and unique production as she added videos (images of violence that may be disturbing to some) that in a theater would have appeared as projections.

The selection of this production by Artistic Director Robert Hupp and Associate Director Kyle Bass is one of the things that I love about Syracuse Stage. They always find a way to bring a play or musical that is relevant even though it was written 25 years ago. This is especially true in this production due to the recent murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 is without a doubt a must-see virtual production showcasing incredible talent along with a powerful, relevant, and thought-provoking documentary theatrical production.

Running Time: Part 1 approximately an hour and thirty minutes; Part 2 approximately an hour and thirty minutes. Approximately three hours total. The streaming viewing window is 72 hours.

Syracuse Stage's production of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 is available for streaming through February 14, 2021. To purchase the streaming service and find out about all things Syracuse Stage click here or call the box office at 315-443-3275.

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