BANG! With a single gunshot, many lives change. Seattle Public Theater’s Pacific Northwest premiere of Slip/Shot evokes serious thought about the truth behind racial tension both in the 1960s and now. Written by Jacqueline Goldfinger in 2012, the play takes place in the racially divided town of Tallahassee in 1963, where a white security guard accidentally kills an innocent young black man.
The first part of the play emphasizes the ideals of the American Dream as the characters look optimistically forward to the future with their families. Clem, a white security guard (played by Quinn Armstrong), attempts to establish an independent household away from his depressive father with his new wife Kitty (played by Jocelyn Maher). Likewise, couple Monroe and Euphrasie (played by Treavor Boykin and Marquicia Dominguez) look forward to their own future together as Euphrasie plans to attend college in the coming year. Bright stage lighting and fast-paced music evoke a sense of joy and giddiness within the audience.
But the atmosphere changes when Clem accidentally fatally shoots Monroe. Everything becomes dark and turns into a blur; it’s as if time physically stops as the characters are unable to move on from the accident. Faith Russell, who plays Miz Athey, Monroe’s mother, does an exceptional job of showing the pain and angst of a mother losing her child. Her performance brings the audience to tears, including myself. Russell’s lingering eyes resting upon the spot where her son used to be arouses a sense of emptiness that cannot be filled again.
Clem and Kitty seem to be caught up in the accident as well, unable to move on from the incident due to the fear of repercussions from the black population. They are unable to do anything without having to make sure that no harm would come to them. Their eventual fall into paranoia emphasizes one of the messages that the play is attempting to get across to its audience: Everyone needs to walk away from the past and work toward the future.
Goldfinger also uses parallelism between the two families to illustrate the need for change in racial relationships. She shows that there is no difference between the two races when it comes down to their everyday lives. The blatant hatred and fear that both races have toward each other seem to be superficial as the play goes on to show how similar the characters of different races actually are. This effectively shows that one must have the courage to make choices for a better future for everyone, of all races, without having to fear each other.
Slip/Shot prompts the audience to ponder whether we are caught up in false perceptions of the society today and make assumptions without learning the truth. Racial tension have been allowed to go on until now maybe due to lack of attempts to understand one another. In conclusion, this play offers a fresh perspective on still very present on social problems.
Seattle Public Theater
September 26 - October 12