The Beginning Of A Most Important Dialogue Initiated By This striking and moving staging of rage!
This docu-drama or docu-fiction, a form of musical theatre that ties together reality and fiction inspired by real-life tragedies, concerns events that took place in Montreal (the death of an unarmed Freddy Villanueva in 2008) and the shooting of unarmed Trayvon Martin in Florida (2013) which set off the “Black Lives Matter” movement in the US. We are immediately drawn back to Shakespeare’s work The Lamentable Tragedy Of Titus Andronicus (1623) whose ending is inspired by Seneca’s Thyestes. The Roman play concerns the horrific torture and death of children due to the rivalry between the twin brothers, Atreus and Thyestes. Atreus, takes vengeance on his brother Thyestes by tricking him into eating his own sons who have been slaughtered and served up on a plate. The unimaginable horror of cannibalism in this situation obviously intrigued Shakespeare who ends his version of Titus Andronicus in a similar way.
Still, given the current urban climate for people who are not perceived as white in our North American Society, the situation created by writer Omari Newton is just as disturbing because it draws attention to the nature of the murder of young people who are regularly slaughtered by the police or security guards for no reason. In most cases, the police are not punished, and the resulting frustration, grief, and rage sets off a form of behavior that evolves into true urban warfare where the minds of young people are set afire with the need for revenge. This is what we see on the NAC stage!
In Sal Capone: The Lamentable Tragedy Of…, a popular DJ dies after being shot by the police and in the ensuing violence, the most innocent poet of the group also takes a bullet against the background of radio reporters’ voices spewing out misinformation distorting the events, blaming the dead people for their own death and announcing many more deaths in the city. The play contains the seeds of hopelessness and ongoing tragedy in our society by pitting rival brothers as did Seneca, against each other, just as much as it shows how those rival brothers are also just as much victims of the forces in power with whom no dialogue appears to be possible.
The show is frantic, loud, booming, vibrating, and bursting with energy. The group of hip-hop musicians, dancers, and singers is preparing to launch a new album but with this sad news of the DJ’s death, everything changes.
Tristan D. Lalla is Freddy the rapper-poet and who speaks his heart out and refuses to resort to violence. His words were not always clear because the music was so loud but we got the gist of it very easily. Kim Villagante plays Jewel, a local hip-hop musician fueled by a searing anger who at the height of it all, is driven to her own form of white racist hate when she threatens to use her gun. She confronts Chase, played by Jordan Waunch a Metis actor who becomes the person organizing the sale of the new album and he refuses to allow the launch party to become a demonstration against the police to respect the memory of the Dead DJ. He wants to see the album sell after all their hard work. Letitia Brookes as Freddy’s sister Naomi, a wonderful young girl who represents the future and a balanced if not terribly idealistic rapport with the world since she has not yet confronted the real tragedy on the streets. But when it does come, there seems to be no hope left.
As a form of a cynical observer, Troy Emery Twigg, a first nations actor playing Shaneyney a transvestite Maman in the full tradition of Michel Tremblay´s the Duchesse of Langeais! She is a part narrator, part witness, part storyteller but even then she cannot remain a neutral outsider in this society of flamboyant choices where loyalties must be clearly stated.
Working with musicians, singers, street dancers, composers, and actors, director Diane Roberts, and the whole technical staff created an excellent show. The music was rousing, exciting, vibrating, and attacked us physically with its electronic keyboard, vibrating bass sounds, hip-hop rhythms, and a lot of street sounds including sirens, cars, young audiences clapping, video projections around the walls where graffiti, faces, moving images capture the chaos of the street as the anger overflows. Five actors plus all the stage effects create the feeling of a crowd where we too were quickly integrated.
A legendary figure has come to life and it is to be hoped that a real dialogue will take place as a result of this show which is already organizing discussions with young people. That is so important. Even though the ending appears to be extremely hopeless, very important questions are raised during the heated exchanges between young Naomi, Jewel and the men. What use is racial profiling among all people in the street? Creating racial division leads to more hate as film director Mathieu Kassovitz states in a recent interview. Why not understand the way class structure also creates division and anger? Author of the French cult film La Haine (Hate..1995) about 3 friends in a Ghetto in France one North African, one sub-Saharan African, and one Jewish that shocked France when it appeared, he says that 22 years later, the situation in France is even more explosive because the country did not listen to those young enraged people. What is happening now (demonstrations, and all manner of violence ) is the direct result of that deafness. So it all became worse. Omari Newton is showing and telling us the same thing. We must listen to him and his artistic team.
Theatre can create dialogue and we hope this play will encourage people to talk! We need more of this forum structure produced by theatrical hyperrealism spawned by what is happening around us.
Come see this show! It plays in the Studio of the NAC from April 10 to 21, in the Azrieli studio at 8:00pm
Please read Patrick Langston’s review of the show :
Written by Omari Newton
Directed by Diane Roberts
Sound Designer Troy Slocum
Set and Lighting designer Ana Cappelluto
Video Designer Candelario Andrade
Costume Designer Sarah Hall-K
Dramaturg Emma Tibaldo
Movement Consultant Crazy Smooth
Fight Director John Koensgen
Tristan D. Lalla is Freddy Salazar Jr.
Troy Emery Twigg is Mac/Shaneyney
Kim Villagante is Jewel De La Reyas
Jordan Waunch is Chase Cheddar
Produced by Boldskool Productions in association with Holding
This article originally appeared in Capital Critics’ Circle on April 14, 2018, and has been reposted with permission.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.