Dobama Theatre examines Black afterlife in the prize winning ‘Kill-Move-Paradise’
What happens when a man or woman dies...in particular what happens when a black man or woman dies, especially one who has been brutally murdered by someone sworn to “Serve and Protect” or other misdirected souls who call themselves patriots and citizens. This is the central theme of James Ijames award winning (2017 Whiting Award and 2019 Kesselring Prize) “Kill-Move-Paradise”.
The play begins with Isa (Mell Bowens, Jr.) being returned to some kind of purgatory in the hood that he had escaped. Two skate park ramps flank a small center stage that has a trap door cover and an large entry pipe above. On each side of the ramps are bleak walls with faded sad graffiti.
Isa begins to interact with the audience whose purpose is to sit in judgment of lost souls. He also points out a printer that occasionally comes to life and prints another name on an already long list of names. Isa suddenly breaks out into a minstrel show type song and dance about the trials of being Black.
Isa is soon joined by Grif (Darius Stubbs) who has no clue as to where he is or what he is doing there. Slowly, Grif begins to remember what happened. He failed to use his turn signal and was gunned down as a result. The pair is then joined by Daz (Ananias J. Dixon) who comes out swinging. He brings along a camp chair and talks about all of the “stuff” he passed in his travels to his present place of lodging. Lastly, a youthful Tiny (Aamar-Malik Culbreth) arrives with his toy gun that was the reason for him being gunned down.
Through the use of slapstick, video games and a sitcom the message is repeated over and over concerning the tragedy that is befalling too many Black citizens in America. At one point the printed list is read as each name is projected on the ramps behind until there is no more room as Isa laments, “And” “And” “And” “And”. Among the names are those well familiar to all of America, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tamir Rice and many more.
The show is fast paced (85 minutes with no intermission) and extremely well acted as all four on stage give it their all. The stage set by Laura Carlson Taratowski is the perfect bleak setting that the story demands. Marcus Dana does an excellent job with the lighting helping to change and reset the mood. T. Paul Lowry’s video projections are astounding and are almost a fifth character in their own right. The show is aptly directed by Nathan Henry who sees to it that the action moves quickly forward as timing is essential for this story line to work.
No matter what your faith, there is little to be hopeful about death...it is after all...death. This show manages to put the afterlife into an entirely new perspective...one of heartbreak, anger, joy, love and humanity with a touch of humor thrown in for balance. You will find yourself swept up in the feelings of fear, sadness, anxiety, laughter and anger but you will also walk away with an overpowering feeling of hope. Well done, Dobama Theatre.
Kill-Move-Paradise will be on stage at the Dobama Theatre (2340 Lee Road, Cleveland, Heights, Ohio) through March 27, 2022. For more information and tickets go to https://www.dobama.org/tickets-index or call (216) 932-3396.