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BWW Reviews: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' Gripping UNTIL THE FLOOD

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis continues their 50th season with the powerful and thought-provoking one person play UNTIL THE FLOOD by Dael Orlandersmith, who also stars. This is the world premier of a work specifically commissioned by The Rep. While focusing on the events surrounding and following the death of Michael Brown, who was shot by a policeman in Ferguson, MO, the characters we meet will no doubt resonate with people in many communities around the country. This is gripping theatre that gives us a group of composite characters who all affected in one way or another by the situation that occurred. It's also a must-see show that will have a profound effect on everyone who views it.

Orlandersmith conducted interviews with various people, and then to preserve their anonymity, combined certain aspects of them to create the various persons whose story is told on stage. Among the characterizations Orlandersmith gives us are an elderly black woman who has witnessed the ebb and flow of racism over the years, an angry young wannabe rapper, a thoughtful student, a gun-packing white landlord, a wise barber who rebukes a couple of eager students looking for a story, a liberAl White teacher, and a former policeman. Though fairly balanced, the show is tilted toward outrage, which considering the circumstances and the reality of the situation, is understandable.

Dael Orlandersmith does an impressive job of inhabiting each of these characters and bringing them to life on the stage. With only a few props and the simplest of costumes, Orlandersmith is able to make the various roles she undertakes believable to the point where spontaneous applause accompanies each monologue. It's a bravura performance, and one that should not be missed.

Director Neel Keller does an excellent job of helping Olandersmith shape the work for an audience. According to an interview with Orlandersmith in the program, Keller was instrumental in pointing out sections that were overwritten, and selecting things that needed to be emphasized. That collaboration produces something truly focused and special. Takeshi Kata provides a simple scenic design that allows Orlandersmith to flow smoothly from one character to the next, with memorials for Michael Brown propped up against a streetlight, and covering the area around the stage. Kata's design is enhanced by the projection designs of Nicholas Hussong, and the lighting scheme of Mary Louise Geiger. Kate Voyce provides the costume designs that delineate each character presented, and Justin Ellington gives us a sound design with compositions that complement the action taking place on stage.

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' dazzling production of UNTIL THE FLOOD is a short (around 70 minutes), but mesmerizing piece of theatre that I consider required viewing. The play continues through November 6, 2016 on the mainstage of the Loretto-Hilton.

Photo credit: Peter Wochniak

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