Kill Move Paradise: Next Act’s performance of the James Ijames play shares the anguish of afterlife for Blacks
The Next Act Theatre production of playwright James Ijames’ play “Kill Move Paradise” as an emotional rollercoaster. The four characters Isa (Marques Causey), Grif (braheem Farmer), Daz (Dimonte Henning), and Tiny (Joseph Brown Jr.), find themselves one by one, descending into a mysterious place after being torn away from their seemingly normal lives.
Slowly but surely, they discover that they are simply the latest four names added to a never-ending list of Blacks killed by police and vigilantes. Inspired by the killing of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by Cleveland police in 2012, the play shows the anguish of the afterlife for these four characters.
Isa finds himself in this strange place with a list that will print out new names whenever another victim of this violence falls into the space. He will be given instructions on how they should comport themselves. The three men and eventually the boy, Tiny, are trying to figure out why they are in this dark place. Is it heaven, hell, purgatory? They must decide and then figure out how to deal with their situation.
Under the brilliant direction of Marti Gobel, emotions ranging from fear, terror, helplessness, satirical happiness and hopeless sadness will flow from the cast and land in the emotional breadbasket of the audience.
What is not clear to Isa and Grif, the second person who falls down the impossibly steep ramp is how are they related. They quiz each other on their whereabouts and the last memories they have. Daz enters the space in a much more heightened state of emotional rage. He rejects the fact that they are all dead.
The three men grapple with the why of their existence in this space. What did they do to deserve this ending to their lives? They explore this until Tiny, carrying a toy gun like Tamir Rice carried when he was killed while playing in a park in Cleveland, is added to the list and joins them in the space.
The three men are reluctant to tell Tiny that he’s dead. He recounts his last memory of seeing a kid shot to death. The four notice they are not alone in the space. The audience is the fifth character, watching the scenes play out on the stage.
Playgoers will never experience anything like being a part of the play as they do for “Kill Move Paradise.” The audience members must decide how to interact with the cast of characters. When do they laugh? Is it appropriate to do so? Who do they represent? Are they the face of America the cast members tell them they are?
Over the course of 85 minutes, the audience will get to look behind the veil, witnessing the interactions of these characters in a space that is unfamiliar to those outside the African American community. The sense of brotherhood, support, love, caring, and duty to stick together, that is sorely lacking in most representations of Black men in our society, makes the play authentic to those who live in the Black community.
The stories of people like, Dontre Hamilton. Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice and George Floyd who all lived very ordinary lives until killed, are told through these brilliant actors.
One leaves the production after experiencing a river of emotions, much like the four characters. As the actors interact with the audience very purposefully, teasing and then menacing the audience, asking them why they are here in this space, the audience members must decide how to respond.
The physicality of the play, infused with attempts to climb over the ramp and escape leaves the audience with moments of confusion as the actors go into silent mode, contemplating their next move. These moments of silence force the audience to deal with their own emotions as they see these four trying to make sense of the space they find themselves in. “Kill Move Paradise” will make you laugh and possibly cry as well.
It is well worth a trip to Next Act Theatre. The play runs through October 16th at Next Act Theatre at 255 S. Water Street. Visit nextact.org or call (414) 278-0765 to get tickets.