Friday, August 04, 2017

“Statements After An Arrest” - a Timely and Compelling Drama

Darian Upshaw in Statements.... (Dave Hastings)
Statements After An Arrest Under the Immorality Act
Theater Schmeater
Through August 12, 2017

A production of the Athol Fugard play, Statements After An Arrest Under the Immorality Act, is a kind of must-see production. It reminds that there was a time not that far in the past where intermingling and romance and sex between folks of different shades of melanin were declared illegal. This happened in South Africa with national laws, but also in the United States in various areas.

The play includes an even more difficult emotional situation because Errol Philander, a "colored" South African is married when he sneaks into the local library at night to meet librarian, Frieda Joubert. His immorality is doubly deep, in that aspect. Once the couple is arrested, they expose to community judgment both themselves and his family.

The local production, directed by Emily Harvey and Jordan-Michael Whidbey, starts out in almost complete darkness. Darian Upshaw and Amanda Rae play the two lovers and start out appropriately naked. They discuss their lives and their feelings. They chose to do the play in South African accents (assisted by Marianna de Fazio), which they carry off pretty credibly.

Upshaw is particularly good at both the accent and the rhythm, and he demonstrates how very intelligent Errol is. Errol is erudite, well-read, and thoughtful about life and philosophy.

Rae and Upshaw do a solid job in these difficult roles. Due to the lack of light, Rae’s diction becomes a bit of an issue. She sometimes speaks a bit quickly and quietly. But her commitment is very apparent and she invests fully in the role.

The couple’s love is complicated and uneasy. They are afraid and guilty, even just because they are sneaking around behind the backs of his wife and family. The extra fear is of being arrested. And of course they are arrested.

Chris Shea plays the by-the-book policeman and the lighting, designed by Dave Hastings, flashes like photographer-flashes, periodically, as the couple scramble to put some clothes on. They are forced to confront their “transgression” and to detail the history of their relationship. It is a cringe-worthy activity that no adult should ever have to go through.

The subject matter resonates today almost as strongly as it did when Fugard wrote it in 1972. Love and sex are always strong motivators. The overlay of race continues to challenge people’s assumptions, and in today’s more overt racist society, due to the “Trump effect” or whatever you want to label it, couples of different skin tones are getting harassed more often and more openly than even a year or two ago.

Kudos to the Schmee for doing the show. I hope to continue to see more challenging and political work there
in the near future.

For more information, go to www.schmeater.org or call 206-324-5801.