Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992
If you are in the Boston area, I strongly recommend that you see the revival of Anna Deavere Smith’s masterpiece, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge. The drama begins with the murder of Black teen Latasha Harlins in a Korean-owned grocery store, takes us through the brutal bludgeoning of Rodney King, the two trials and the riots that followed the verdict in the first, and then presents the beating—and rescue—of white truck driver Reginald Denny. The pain and complexity of these events is captured in this work that portrays the diversity of Los Angeles in 1992, including shop owners, politicians, community activists, professors, realtors, movie people, teenagers, law enforcement, and jurors. Many of the characters are celebrities and public figures; many are not. It still horrifies and enthralls decades after it was first performed by Smtih as a one-woman show.
Five actors (Tiffany Rachelle Stewart, Carl Palmer, Elena Hurst, Francis Jue, and Wesley T. Jones) carry this revival into the present day: five actors who appear to be Black, Asian, Latinx, White. They slip seamlessly in and out of roles that match or contradict their apparent racial and gender identities to offer a gripping and multi-faceted opportunity for racial and social reckoning. Francis Jue’s portrayal of opera diva Jessye Norman alone is heart-stopping.
No easy answers here, but you will emerge with a sense of the complexity of what lies before us (because even though the Rodney King beatings and trials were thirty years ago, the conditions in which they occurred have changed little) and perhaps as well some new-found empathy for humanity as well as yourself.