A patrol cop deals in objective reality, explains one of SHEEPDOG’s two characters. But objective reality can be hard to determine. Shattered Globe Theatre’s production of Kevin Artigue’s dramatracks two officers, one black and one white, as they dig through human frailty in search of it.
Tautly directed by Wardell Julius Clark, SHEEPDOG manages to be a romance, a mystery and a social commentary within its 90-minute timeframe. Ryan (Drew Schad), a white guy from a small Ohio town, and Amina (Leslie Ann Sheppard), an urban black woman, fall in love on the job in East Cleveland. That in and of itself calls objective reality into question. Playwright Artigue questions it further with a structure that takes us back and forth chronologically, establishing facts in one scene and challenging them in a later one.
Love hardly conquers all in Artigue’s SHEEPDOG
Schad and Sheppard project distinct but equally warm personalities as they become intimates in SHEEPDOG’s minimalist stage environment. There they discover how divergent their upbringings have been. Ryan’s dad was such an abusive bigot, he freely confesses that “I hate the way I grew up.” Amina’s dad died “broke and afraid” after losing his house in 2008 and a foot to diabetic amputation. Both became police officers with a genuine commitment to protect and serve. Or, as Ryan puts it, “do a little good in a big shitty world.” But the gap between them yawns widely: Ryan does everything he can to escape his home while Amina does all she can to bring justice to hers.
Their love is genuine, Ryan as a well-meaning caregiver and Amina as a firebrand who can’t resist his emotional bounty. Yet even after they move in together,love hardly conquers all. Ryan laments that Amina only seems to give him “80%” of herself while Amina does her best to make him understand that a piece of her will always be consumed by her racial experience.
Third rail of race in Shattered Globe Theatre production
Despite their differences, Amina wants to have a baby as much as Ryan does-- and that requires job security. But then Ryan shoots a 23-year-old bipolar black man. Fundamentally decent, Ryan suddenly becomes one of the damned: a cop responsible for killing an African American male who may or may not have threatened him with a weapon.The young man’s family mourns and demands justice while the police department quietly stifles the case.
Though keeping the officers’ code of silence would be a safer course, Amina sets out to discover the truth. Probing the evidence filein secret means risking her professional reputation and, more critically, her bond with Ryan.But, she notes, although wearing the same color uniform as her white colleagues – not to mention her boyfriend – “you’re black before you’re blue.”
SHEEPDOG leaps directly onto the third rail of race in America.For this viewer, all involved in this production – the author, the director and the cast – succeed without electrocuting themselves. Blending personal and public issues boldly but without sensationalism, the result is a complex story about America’s stubborn racial divide.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read – Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves
Playwright: Kevin Artigue
Director: Wardell Julius Clark
Drew Schad* (Ryan) and Leslie Ann Sheppard (Amina)
Sydney Lynne Thomas (scenic design), Hailey Rakowiecki+ (costume design), Jason Lynch (lighting design), Christopher Kriz+ (sound design), Jonathan Berg-Einhorn (props design), Smooch Medina (projection design), Jyreika Guest (intimacy choreographer), Am’Ber Montgomery (associate director), Deanna Reed-Foster* (assistant director, dramaturg), Tina M. Jach (stage manager) and Ayanna Wimberley+ (assistant stage manager).
Through February 29, 2020
Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 pm
Sundays at 3 pm
1229 W. Belmont Ave.
About the Author
Susan Lieberman is a Jeff-winning playwright, journalist, teacher and script consultant who commits most of her waking hours to Chicago theatre. Her radio drama In the Shadows aired on BBC Radio 4 last season.