Some plays are meant to entertain and some to challenge. Go to the theater and you can see familiar characters behaving in ways that make you laugh in recognition or characters and situations that disturb and even repel.
What’s it gonna be? Do you feel lucky? Well, do you?
Scraps, which runs at the Matrix Theatre through Sept. 15, disturbs and challenges. The show presents a neighborhood (Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant) and scenario (unarmed black man shot by a white police officer) unfamiliar to those fortunate enough to live in our little corner of the world. We see the news stories and sometimes a follow-up story with a weeping mother and angry protesters. But we don’t live in this world.
We don’t see the impact of such a shooting on the friends, lovers and others whose life the deceased touched. Playwright Geraldine Inoa sees, and she has given them voices.
The voices are not the typical Six O’Clock News soundbites. They’re tumbles of howls and wails and words. They offend. They incite. They’re accessorized with the artifacts of slavery and death. They simultaneously break and harden your heart.
Scraps, directed by Stevie Walker-Webb, interrupts its own story with spoken word and a fever dream of shocking imagery. It doesn’t always hang together but the emotions expressed are clear and raw.
Jean-Baptiste Delacroix (Tyrin Niles) is the angry core. Forest Winthrop, his lifelong friend, was killed and now Jean-Baptiste sits alone on the front stoop of the building they shared. The artistry of the profanity-laden consciousness he streams sets the tone for the set piece that follows and the free-for-all that closes the show.
Calvin Young (Ahkei Togun) is Forest’s friend who made it out of the neighborhood and is just back from a semester in London. He meets resentment from Jean-Baptiste: “You drove off like we were shadows blocking you from the light.” The differences between the paths taken by three black men are stark.
Aisha Douglas (Denise Yolén) is “20 going on 85.” She laments that Forest ran from the police, leaving her to raise his child alone. She suffers from PTSD when a firecracker goes off. It’s unclear how she will adapt to her new normal. Her sister and Forest’s friend Adriana (Ashlee Olivia) seems even less prepared to deal with the desperation of a system that devalues her and her friends.
The acting is superb and is supported by the work of resident Matrix scenic designer John Iacovelli, lighting by Brian Gale and Zo Haynes, and sound design by Jeff Gardner. Scraps takes you to the ends of Brooklyn and the outer boundaries of what human beings must endure.
Scraps is playing at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave through Sept. 15.
Performances are Saturdays and Mondays at 8:00 pm, Sundays at 2:00 pm.
Tickets are $35 for weekend performances, pay-what-you-want ($15 suggested; use promo code PWYC) on Mondays.
Click here for tickets.