Regional Reviews: San Francisco
A Thought-provoking Production of Rhett Rossi
From Red to Black is like a cross between Sidney Kingsley's 1951 drama The Detective Story and an episode of the television series "Southland." The 75-minute drama centers on the circumstances of a middle-aged white businessman who fell to his death on a New York subway track. The police have arrested a young African-American man who was nearby. Did this young man push the victim? Two Irish detectives, a "good" cop and a "bad" cop, are interrogating the suspect.
As the detectives dig deeper, many twists in the story are uncovered. The playwright reveals uncomfortable truths and obscurities about our society as he peels away the true story of what happened at the subway station.
Rhett Rossi has written an excellent script with current hot-button issues about race relations in the New York Police Department. He certainly has a great ear for dialogue, especially the street talk of the young African American and conversations between the working class old pro Irish detective and his younger college-educated socially conscious partner.
Newcomer Isiah Thompson gives an outstanding performance as the accused William. He has the street smart speech down perfectly. He brings to life the suffocating uncertainty hidden in the boldness of the character. Charles Shaw Robinson once again gives a superlative performance, as the older policeman, Denny Mitchell. He plays the role with a persistent commitment, as a cop who has seen it all over the years. Matthew Baldiga gives a solid performance as the "good cop" Jack. He gives the character a grounded social conscience. Rounding out the four-member cast is Michael Shipley, who plays the mystery character Lawrence, a colleague of the dead man. He is excellent in the smaller role.
Susi Damilano's direction is sharp and tight. Bill English has designed an excellent multi-area set of an interrogating room. Lighting by Jessica Brent is perfect for the small stage and Hannah Birch Carl's sound design, using the rumble of subway trains, gives the appropriate suffocating effect.
From Red to Black runs through August 30th, 2014, at A.C.T. Costume Shop, 1119 Market Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-677-9596 or visit www.sfplayhouse.org.