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The StreetSigns Center for Literature and Performance, which specializes in highly imaginative multimedia stage adaptations of classic and contemporary literary works, made another highly rewarding foray into documentary theater Feb. 19-March 2, with StreetSigns' artistic director Derek Goldman's brand-new 15-member ensemble production of actress/playwright Anna Deavere Smith's sensational one-woman show, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. Smith based Twilight on verbatim transcripts from hundreds of interviews conducted after volcanic riots erupted in Los Angeles after the initial acquittal of four white police officers charged with turning African-American motorist Rodney King into a human piñata, striking him with their batons 56 times in 81 seconds.
Using vivid video footage of the riots and jarring snippets of contemporary radio and television broadcasts, Derek Goldman creates a chilling visual and aural tapestry that serves as a backdrop for the fiery first-person testimony of a broad cross-section of victims of and witnesses to the riots and other pertinent parties. His assignment of characters, his orchestration of their emotions, and, most of all, his brilliant choreography of the segues from scene to scene make Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 a truly remarkable theatrical experience and easily one of StreetSigns' best productions since relocating from Chicago to Chapel Hill, NC.
Scenic designer Rob Hamilton, multimedia designers Michael Peterson and Andy Spain, lighting designer Steve Dubay, costume designer Diana Waldier, and sound designer Emily Hanford also deserve considerable credit for their contributions to the show's outstanding production values.
The 15 cast members — all carefully chosen and skillfully coached — each created a number of full-blooded three-dimensional R-rated characterizations. Some of the most memorable performances included Torrey Lawrence's passionate portrayals of a couple of angry African-Americans and a seriously wounded Korean shop owner; Katrina Harper's righteously indignant impersonation of Congresswoman Maxine Waters; Rivka Eisner's pungent portrait of a traffic reporter; Rick Lonon's crisp characterizations as former L.A. police chief Daryl Gates and brutally beaten truck drive Reginald Denny; Jordan Smith's incisive portraits of a fireman and an anonymous juror; John Murphy's vivid cameos as L.A. mayor Tom Bradley and movie star Charlton Heston; and Etheldreda Guion's touching performance as Rodney King's aunt.
Other standout performers included Tessa Joseph, SaRAH! Kocz, Carl Martin, Sherida McMullan, Kevin Poole, Courtney Rollins, Aaron Scott, and Jinda Wedel.