Just about any revival of a play or musical will inevitably be touted by somebody or different as “timely” in an try to justify why it’s being produced once more. But it’s one factor for a present to contact upon a theme which will have some modern relevance, and it’s fairly one other for it to dive into material that’s so pressing and on-point that the present makes a good more powerful influence today than it did throughout its original run.
This occurred already this fall with the musical “Caroline, or Change,” which delves into unconscious and institutional racism and sophistication rigidity within the Sixties South (in addition to the elimination of a statute of a Accomplice chief), and it’s occurring once more with Anna Deavere Smith’s documentary drama “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992,” which has been newly revised by Smith and is presently being introduced Off-Broadway by Signature Theatre Firm.
In “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992,” Smith (a 71-year-old playwright and actress who’s finest recognized for her documentary-style dramas) splices collectively bits and items of 320 interviews she carried out practically 30 years in the past so as to create a sweeping, multifaceted portrait of the social unrest in Los Angeles in 1992 after 4 White law enforcement officials had been acquitted of beating Black motorist Rodney King in 1992, culminating in outrage and violent rioting.
Though there are essential variations between the Rodney King riots and the Black Lives Matter protests that occurred in the summertime of 2020 following the demise of George Floyd, the parallels between the 2 precipitating occasions are unmistakable, together with the truth that each incidents got here to public consciousness by means of novice video recordings. (Actually, PBS made its 2000 TV adaptation of “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” accessible for streaming final summer season in mild of its timeliness.)
To acknowledge the present political second, Smith has added a brand new monologue by journalist Hector Tobar through which he connects Rodney King and George Floyd as “the story of two videos.” “This outrage which has lingered and smoldered…in the communities of people of color for decades since that Rodney King video is suddenly awakened…” Tobar explains.
Whereas the original manufacturing was conceived as a one-woman present through which Smith performed dozens of characters starting from a Black girl from Panama who was shot throughout the riots to movie star and former NRA president Charlton Heston, the Off-Broadway revival (directed by Taibi Magar) makes use of a various and versatile five-member solid (together with Elena Hurst, Wesley T. Jones, Francis Jue, Karl Kenzler, and Tiffany Rachelle Stewart), through which every actor performs a number of characters that largely correspond together with his or her racial id.
The ensemble method is clunky and never effectively suited to the play, which works higher with a single performer shortly and seamlessly switching roles. The manufacturing additionally went overboard with towering video projections, frequent costume modifications, and, at one level, an accumulation of random junk in an try to characterize looting.
That being mentioned, one is grateful to have a possibility to revisit the play at comparable to opportune time. It’s unclear whether or not Smith has thought-about creating a brand new interview-based work delving into George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. If not, maybe “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” will persuade somebody to stick with it her legacy.
Signature Theatre, 480 W. forty second St., signaturetheatre.org, by means of Nov. 21.