There's been no respite in the American crisis of police officers fatally shooting civilians at a higher rate than in any other developed country—not since the events in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, that nationalized the Black Lives Matter movement, and certainly not since the Justice Department took an about-face under Attorney General Jeff Sessions and pledged to abdicate its department-review duties. With that in mind, Dael Orlandersmith's unsparing series of monologues makes some big asks of its audience: to listen to and better understand a multitude of perspectives—some heinous—on the events that led to the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man, at the hands of Darren Wilson, a white police officer, and to continue seeking hope in a situation where so little is apparent.
Derived on dozens of interviews with Ferguson and Saint Louis residents, Orlandersmith has crafted eight composite characters with layered, thorny takes on the anger, fear, privilege, injustice, assumptions, and institutional breakdowns that factor into the cycle of violence committed against people of color by American law enforcement.
An elderly black woman confesses resentment toward Brown; a white middle-aged woman grieves a friend from whom she became estranged because of her sympathetic sentiment for Wilson; a black business owner bemoans the naive "green-black and green-white" academics and artists who flocked to Saint Louis in the aftermath and condescended to suburbanites. While Until the Flood is not forthrightly not a work of journalism, in this Goodman Theatre production, directed by Neel Keller, Orlandersmith's masterful series of performances taps into theater's distinct ability to add in-the-room human voices and faces to hard conversations that are otherwise increasingly held anonymously, digitally, and without empathy. v