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Saturday, April 22, 2017

"Rodney King" @ Artist Repertory Theatre

I am just a little too young to truly remember the Rodney King Beating. My first vivid recollection of it was its presence in the opening-title sequence of Spike Lee's "Malcolm X" That is somewhat fitting, because Spike Lee and the star of "Rodney King," Roger Guenveur Smith have had a long collaboration with each other, including the upcoming Netflix premiere of this very show. While I am quite sure that Mr. Lee will do a characteristically stellar job, I also suspect that we are very lucky to be the last to see this production live.

To call it "breathless" would seem at first to be a cliche, but I mean it quite literally, Mr. Smith's stream-of-consciousness meditation on the event is so rapid-fire I actually did wonder several times how he was able to breathe. Unfortunately, due to some astoundingly rude behavior by a few audience members, Mr. Smith was forced to pause and admonish them.

That aside, "Rodney King" is a piece that pulses with urgency, because things have gotten much worse. It is a work of art that deserves more attention than it is getting. It is part of what Artist Rep has dubbed The Frontier Series, which is in addition to its Main Stage Season. I only knew about it from handbills prior to the Press Release. It only runs through Sunday, and Opening Night was not at capacity. I hope to do my part to change that.

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