As one enters the upstairs stage at the Adrienne one is greeted by Caitlin Lainoff’s simple kitchen set that immediately evokes the look of the early 60s. This is surrounded by a proscenium of a representation of Spanish moss, a clear clue that the viewer will be entering the sleepy world of bayou country; in this case, Tallahassee during the early days of desegregation.
At the start of the play we meet Kitty (Rachel Camp) and Clem (Kevin Meehan), young newlyweds who are so hot for each other that Kitty’s lack of cooking skills are cute to her husband. They’re full of promise for a bright future. Soon, the deeper underbelly of the story is revealed. Clem and Kitty are trying to get away from troubled family lives through each other. Clem’s father is well known locally for his Klan-like activities; something his son abhors and is desperately trying to distance himself from.
Next, on that same simple kitchen set, we meet a single black mother, Miz Athey (Cathy Simpson), and Monroe (Akeem Davis), her high school senior son. Miz Athey’s husband died a decade or so ago due to racial biases following a hunting accident. As we meet these two, Monroe is trying to get his mother’s help with a picnic basket so he can impress his girl, Phrasie (Taysha Canales), who has won a scholarship to college. Monroe and Phrasie share a sweet scene showing their burgeoning love.
Press materials for Ms. Goldfinger’s new work state that SLIP/SHOT began as “a ghost story, with the characters haunted by the specters of their fathers,” The playwright goes on to state that “Most of the action in SLIP/SHOT takes place within the confines of small Southern kitchens where we can feel the permanence of each family’s legacy, their unseen ghosts Although a mentor emerges as a father figure for Clem, offering him an alternative way forward, Clem is unable to shake the damaging lessons he internalized from his father, consciously and unconsciously, and so is blind to the redemption and hope within his grasp.”
These two families’ stories become forever entwined one night when Clem accidently shoots Lukie to death outside the Whites Only hospital [he was taking a shortcut home from his date with Phrasie]. We watch them struggle to come to terms with the tragedy during the subsequent scenes of this 100 minute drama. Clem loses his job and sinks into ever growing paranoia, barricading his family into their home. Kitty, pregnant with their first child, desperately tries to restore some normalcy, to no avail. After some bitter recriminations, Miz Athey and Phrasie bond over the baby Phrasie is carrying—Monroe’s baby, and both women’s hope for a better future.
Solid direction by Rebecca Wright elicits strong performances from this talented ensemble, which also includes Keith Conallen as the local sheriff and Eric Endsley as Lukie, Clem’s friend and fellow officer. Ms. Wright paces things beautifully, allowing the comedy of the early scenes to take us into the deeper aspects of the story. She has elicited subtly calibrated performances from each of her cast members. Rachel Camp is wonderful as the slightly trampy Southern gal in lust/love with her handsome young husband. She is perfectly matched by Kevin Meehan’s earnest, yet macho, Clem. Mr. Meehan’s descent into his own personal hell is nicely played. In his brief time onstage Akeem Davis is very winning as the besotted young man who doesn’t seem to realize there is racism bubbling around him. Taysha Canales gives a lovely performance as a young black woman at the cusp of adulthood and big changes for her race and gender. This is beautifully balanced by Cathy Simpson’s portrayal of a strong black woman who has had to silently suffer the indignities of racism.
Thom Weaver’s lighting design creates just the right mood throughout—and a special nod for his work creating a hurricane towards the end of the play. Larry D. Fowler, Jr’s sound design is equally solid, punctuating the action as it plays out before us. Alisa Sickora Kleckner’s costuming and Avista Custom Theatrical Designs have added great detail and flavor to this engrossing production.
Obviously, just prior to opening, life eerily imitated art—and in Florida. But this piece has a power all its own and the sad events in Sanford just point out that, sadly, we still have a long way to go before we achieve Martin Luther King’s dream.
I urge everyone to see this play. It is wonderful theatre that will generate deep and enlightening conversation; kudos to Flashpoint for bravely asking the questions so many of us want to avoid. This is yet another example of the power of theatre to illuminate life and the human condition.
by Jacqueline Goldfinger
Directed by Rebecca Wright
Flashpoint Theatre Company
April 11—May 5, 2012
Adrienne 2nd Stage
2030 Sansom Street
For tickets call 215-665-9720