Do Not Miss The Masterfully Poignant 'Until The Flood' At The Kirk Douglas Theater

Dael Orlandersmith's show, 'Until the Flood', bears witness to a complex mix of emotional and psychological wounds ripped open by Michael Brown’s death

February 6, 2020
Until The Flood By Dael Orlandersmith

 On February 5, 2020, the man whose generous support made possible the launch of the Center Theatre Group’s third stage, passed away at the glorious age of 103. CTG honored actor Kirk Douglas Wednesday night with the dimming of the lights at the theatre which bears his name.  It is lovely to note that the show currently gracing its stage is getting rave reviews… including the following.  Kirk Douglas, RIP.

The shooting death of Ferguson, Missouri youth Michael Brown was one of the most polarizing and agonizing events of the past decade.  On August 9, 2014, 28-year-old police officer Darren Wilson shot 18-year-old Brown dead.  Darren Wilson was white; Michael Brown was black.  When the St. Louis County Grand Jury declined to indict officer Wilson, and the United States Department of Justice acquitted him of civil rights violations, public opinion splintered: lines were drawn, riots ensued, some hearts were hardened, some softened, some broken.  Dael Orlandersmith takes a deep dive into that emotional landscape in her theatrical triumph: Until the Flood.

More than just a parade of monologues by various characters, Until the Flood bears witness to a complex mix of emotional and psychological wounds ripped open by Brown’s death. A full cast of characters is embodied by this one remarkable playwright and actress. 

The opening night crowd was of rapt attention as scenic designer Takeshi Kata’s neighborhood memorial filled the space along the edge of the stage, blurring the line between audience and actress and drawing us into one community of beings.  So authentic are the red candles, the ribbons, and notes, they seem plucked from the streets of Ferguson or any flashpoint of violent sorrow in anywhere USA. Orlandersmith morphs from one character to the next with costume changes as minimal as the donning of a clerical vestment, a crocheted shawl, or a baseball jacket. There are no distractions of elaborate set changes to mark each character’s territory.  Instead, the simple act of walking to a bare downstage from an upstage rocking chair is all the change she needs to step from one reality to the next.  Well drawn characters—among them an old black shop owner; a young teenage boy praying to get out of Ferguson before he, too, is shot dead; a bisexual Unitarian minister who has love and grace for all; an embittered grandmother; a wickedly racist father—some black, some white, all flawed.  Mary Louise Geiger’s touches of lighting and Nicholas Hussong’s projections, too, are light of touch and effective as ever. 

Through the words of her characters, drawn from her imagination, Orlandersmith takes a deep dive into what it is to be human.  She does not shy away from the ugliness of racism yet approaches these people she has created with deep empathy.  Her work is a lesson in itself, to have the capacity to sit in the tension between righteousness and compassion.  Without rancor or hatred, Orlandersmith reveals her wisdom and understanding while pointing to the sticky racial inequality and slow-to-change culture that produced such a tragedy.

Don’t wait to see Until the Flood.  It closes on February 23, 2020.  Get your tickets here.