Although Jacqueline Goldfinger penned Slip/Shot long before George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin met on the street of a gated Florida community, it’s impossible to see this absorbing drama without recalling Martin’s tragic death. His killing no doubt gives the Philly playwright’s story a sense of immediacy.
Goldfinger’s play—which is making its world premiere in a Flashpoint Theatre Company production—begins in 1962 Tallahassee, Fla., with newlyweds Clem (Kevin Meehan) and Kitty (Rachel Camp). Clem, a police officer, has a decent job, and Kitty is pregnant. Both are the offspring of what would impolitely be referred to as white trash, but Clem is determined not to follow in his father’s footsteps. When his partner, Lukie (newcomer Erik Endsley in an eye-catching performance), asks Clem if his dad is still hunting for black people “with those boys ’round Lake Jackson,” Clem’s response is both angry and telling: “I got my own family now. I ain’t no part a’ his.” Uneducated but far from ignorant, the whites we encounter in Goldfinger’s play were raised in segregation but don’t cling to it. Civil rights is coming to Tallahassee, and while this new generation of white Floridians isn’t going to be marching with Dr. King anytime soon, they don’t consciously embrace the racist views of their parents.
Across town, another young couple is preparing to start a new life together. Monroe (Akeem Davis) and Phrasie (Taysha Canales), both black teenagers, pledge their undying love to one another even though Monroe is headed to college in South Carolina and Phrasie has a scholarship to a teaching college in another state.
One day, Monroe passes Clem—who’s on duty—on the sidewalk. Clem is practicing moves with his revolver, and accidentally shoots Monroe. In an instant, the lives of the two couples and Clem’s mother (Cathy Simpson in an extraordinary performance) are forever altered.
Horrified and deeply distraught, Clem isn’t worried about going to jail. He’s worried that someone will seek revenge for Monroe’s death. “This was one of their prime boys, smart as those folks come,” the town’s sheriff tells Clem, explaining Monroe’s standing in the black community. It becomes clear that Clem didn’t just kill any black man; he killed one of Tallahassee’s most promising and respected young black men. The sheriff (Keith Conallen) advises his deputy to lay low and watch his back. Soon, Clem has barricaded the house. No one can get in. But no one can get out, either. Scared to death, he is imprisoned in his own home.
Goldfinger has a unique poetic voice. She isn’t writing just to entertain an audience (though she manages to do so); she is writing to pose questions that have no quick, simple answers. In Slip/Shot , Goldfinger asks us to consider the basis of our suspicions and the impact America’s legacy of racism has on both our individual and national identity.
Director Rebecca Wright’s production fits perfectly in Flashpoint’s go-for-broke style. It isn’t a polished production—the acting is as uneven as the cast’s Southern accents, with only Endsley managing a consistent drawl—but it is a gripping one. Anchored by Simpson’s tremendous performance, the production makes excellent use of the play’s single kitchen set (effectively realized in Caitlin Lainoff’s grungy but sweetly domestic scenic design) to draw our attention to the similarities between two families linked by death and separated by race.
Through May 5. $18-$20. Second stage at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St. flashpointtheatre.org
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