Jacqui Parker’s new play, A CRACK IN THE BLUE WALL (@ Hibernian Hall through Nov. 22nd) follows one family in their quest for justice when a white policeman shoots and kills their son. Sound familiar? Parker’s clever twist on a story “ripped from the headlines” is that the father of the slain man is himself a policeman. What’s more, his partner is related by marriage to the shooter.
Will his white partner help this African-American family uncover the truth? Will the slain boy’s mother emerge from her grief and embrace the living again? Will her other son take up his brother’s mission to speak out against violence? Will all the young people in the play stay virgins? That last one seems a bit out of place but Parker, the master weaver, gets some much appreciated levity out of matching up and cooling down the teenagers.
The threads Parker works into her tapestry are so plentiful that any one of them could have its own play: Parker offers an embarrassment of riches with themes like the empowerment of women, the persistence of existence even after death, forced busing, prescription drug abuse, family loyalty, the excruciatingly slow judicial system, burgeoning sexuality, dating out of one’s race, the thin blue line, and the “Black Lives Matter” movement (although Parker doesn’t specifically name it).
The play opens with a news report on the shooting and ends with another news report announcing the District Attorney’s plans for the case. Since the play is chronological and happens between the two news stories, I felt as if we were watching an episodic drama, the way Charles Dickens wrote his novels (with each chapter running in another day’s newspaper)… or the way television has tapped into well written serial dramas. If HBO is listening, Parker’s your playwright.
Parker has a crackerjack cast to people her story: Abria Smith and Wyatt Jackson portray the grieving parents who each find a different path for coping. Jackson’s character is a tower of strength where Smith’s turns inward. Their elegant performances are contrasted with the energy and urgency of the teenaged characters.
Derek Jackson as the surviving son can’t sit still and wait. It’s a powerful portrayal of youthful passion and exuberance...and he’s quite adept at comedy, too, being pursued by two attractive females, one (Johanna Perez) who is dogged in her pursuit and one (Amelia Janine Lumpkin) who insists she isn’t at all interested! John Porell has the plum role of a man torn in his allegiances, to a friend and partner or to his wife’s family. Seyquan Mack and Smith have some lovely moments together, with Mack serenading his mother to sleep.