BWW Review: ACT's UNTIL THE FLOOD Examines a Society After Ferguson

BWW Review: ACT's UNTIL THE FLOOD Examines a Society After Ferguson
Dael Orlandersmith in Until the Flood at ACT.
Photo credit: Chris Bennion

We all remember hearing of the tragedy of August 9th, 2014 when Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri was shot in killed by police officer Darren Wilson in his attempt to apprehend Brown after a convenience store robbery. It may have been on the other side of the country from us but the racial unrest that followed surrounding the shooting is something that was felt everywhere. But this polarizing issue is a hard one to unpack and discuss especially without the context of being there. Enter Dael Orlandersmith and her one woman show, "Until the Flood" currently playing at ACT, with its unique and quite complete viewpoint to give us all a new perspective.

Commissioned by St. Louis Repertory Theatre, Orlandersmith conducted interviews with the people of Ferguson and surrounding areas from all walks of life to discover just how the shooting affected them and what life was like before and after the incident. From the interviews she has created seven composite characters, male and female, black and white, from all areas and social and economic backgrounds to give their perspectives on what happened on that day and what has happened since. She deftly walks the tightrope of objectivity by presenting all sides. But this is theater so there is a more liberal bent to it but even with that she still manages to allow the audience to come away with new perspectives and ideas and form their own opinions.

Oh, and did I mention she plays all the characters herself? Each of the eight are swiftly and expertly swapped out with a slight costume change and her own physicality and talent. You know precisely from whom you're hearing at any given moment but she never takes any of them into a mocking or cartoonish realm. They're all very honest and real and it's that honesty that allows each of their messages to come though. We may cringe at some of their ideals or statements but we never doubt their sincerity.

With some stunningly harsh and in your face projections from Nick Hussong and an equally affecting light and sound design from Louise Geiger and Justin Ellington this is not an easy show. This one is definitely a show that's good for you but at times a bit hard to swallow. The vegetables of your theatrical diet. But some hard-hitting veggies. And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give ACT's production of "Until the Flood" a shook up YAY. And remember, sometimes you just have to eat your vegetables in order to become a better person.

"Until the Flood" performs at ACT through July 8th. For tickets or information contact the ACT box office at 206-292-7676 or visit them online at

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From This Author Jay Irwin

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