Before the lights come on—or rather, before they do their first dramatic flickering to signal a Thor-like power at work (Lighting Designer: Jason Lynch)—we all stare at what looks like a section slice of a marble skateboard rink. To its side is an oldey-time looking dot matrix printer, whose chirp we soon realize is the signal summoning another one of this ensemble of double threats to the stage. (Scenic designer: Ryan Emens) This printer is making a list that seems to never end. Reading the program notes, we imagine that The Charleston Nine —the members of the bible study class slaughtered by a White supremacist in 2015— were on an earlier printout mailed to the playwright. It was that event, we learn, that summoned the playwright’s pen into action to craft this unique script.
With an entrance suggesting he has done significant time performing as a circus cannonball, Kai A. Ealy, as Isa, rockets onto the stage, turning around to give us his wide-eyed soliloquy. At one point he comments that he was but eight years old when he first realized that he scared people. Not any old “people” one infers, but white people, not unlike the majority in the two-days after official opening audience. It’s the first of many times when we realize the fourth wall is not so much as broken, but non-existent. We’re eyeing him and he’s eyeing us—same. Either side is realizing that the one-way glass in the police lineup that should protectively make us invisible just isn’t working. But there we are, with no protection or distance between us.
In this writer’s view, Playwright James Ijames has created the perfect set up for us to confront the systemic slaughter of Black Men, and Black Women too, that those of us with white skin privilege can be numb to, while others of color cannot. This imagined place from Ijames’ pen‑ where all souls on ice and souls numbed thaw into raw reveals— is purgatory for all the Black Lives cut short, and hungering to Matter.
Joining Ealy first is Cage Sebastian Pierre as Grif, followed by Charles Andrew Gardner as Daz. Distinct characters, they make the loud statement that the one thing they have in common is breathing while Black. Their characters are quirky. Though the set up is tragic, the in-the-moment has way more fun per line than your average script, in this writer’s view, as Ijames pokes self-referential jokes at the absurdity of his story setup. Ensembles don’t come any tighter (Director: Wardell Julius Clark). Fellow fans of Breon Arzell’s choreography may agree this production is his best yet endeavor. We are left only to puzzle whether it was the script, the set designer, the Director or the ensemble that came up with moves like Isa trying to scale the slick marble parabolic surface behind him.** These visual signals fly fast throughout the play. We watch Isa unable to find firm footing—as if it is a visual of how cards are stacked against Black men keeping them locked in a Myth of Sisyphus- like struggle.
Yet, most will likely agree that it is the arrival of Trent Davis as Tiny that takes our breath away, just as it does for his older Black brethren in the story. This is 12 year-old Tamir Rice come to life, carrying a toy gun, and without a clue of how harshly the world has cut him down.
Ijames premise is clear---
There will only be justice- and these souls will only find meaning—when their slaughter is deemed sufficient to have what it takes to stop that infernal printer from typing out list additions. With the help of an Afrofuturist type plot turn – poignantly made by Izumi Inaba’s Costume Design—KILL MOVE PARADISE ends on an imagined hopeful note.
Timelines Theater Brings The Futuristic Fantasy To The Real World Here, Then and Now
One tip is to make sure you don’t have to dash out before your parking meter runs out. In true Timeline Theater tradition, the lobby has a moving Lobby Display that brings you back to the painful cauldron of the real world where KILL MOVE PARADISE was born. (Lobby Display Designer: Dina Spoerl)
By this writer’s lights, KILL MOVE PARDISE is must-see theater for any and all interested in how theater can not only speak to --but also break through --the paradigms of our time.
**Editor’s Note: Director Wardell Julius Clark clarifies that the script calls for the slide as well as call for run/slides.
Kai A. Ealy (he/him) as Isa, TimeLine Company Member Charles Andrew Gardner (he/him) as Daz, Trent Davis (he/him) as Tiny, and Cage Sebastian Pierre (he/him) as Grif, with Donovan Session (he/him) as Tiny at select performances.
Ryan Emens (Scenic Designer, he/him), Jason Lynch (Lighting Designer, he/him), Izumi Inaba (Costume Designer, she/her), Jeffrey Levin (Sound Designer, he/him), Mealah Heidenreich (Properties Designer, she/her), Rachel Flesher (Intimacy and Violence Director). Jared Bellot (Dramaturg, he/him), Dina Spoerl (Lobby Display Designer, she/her), Miranda Anderson (Stage Manager, she/her), and Sophie Hoyt (Assistant Director, she/her).
TimeLine Theatre announced that it is able to offer a limited number of opportunities to stream a previously filmed performance of its Chicago premiere of James Ijames' Kill Move Paradise. Inspired by the ever-growing list of slain unarmed black men and women, Kill Move Paradise is a portrait of those lost-not as statistics, but as heroes who deserve to be seen for the splendid beings they are. Patrons are then able to view their performance at a time they choose within a one-week window that begins with the performance date and time purchased. Only 99 tickets are available for each streamed performance, reflecting the number of seats in TimeLine's theatre.
|Saturdays:||4:00pm & 8:00pm|
|Sundays:||2:00pm & 6:00pm|
For tickets visit the www.timelinetheatre.com website or call 773-281-8463
Running Time: 1hr, 30mins
About the Author: Amy Munice
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.