‘Until the Flood’ play chronicles aftermath of Michael Brown shooting

“Until the Flood” at Repertory Theater in St. Louis was written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith and directed by Neel Keller.
“Until the Flood” at Repertory Theater in St. Louis was written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith and directed by Neel Keller.

Let's talk.

No screaming, shouting or protest signs.

Just an actress on stage, conveying stories from people who live here.

The moment I write "Ferguson," you may think you know what "Until the Flood" has to say.

You might be surprised. But it is not a lecture.

The play chronicles a specific time and place, and doesn't want us to look away.

This is us in the aftermath of the August 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown. Past, present, future: reeling, healing and recovery.

In her one-woman show, Dael Orlandersmith provides an unflinching look at our community — a different perspective through eight distinct characters.

Like all tipping points, the resulting social unrest remains a raw, uncomfortable and incendiary topic.

Orlandersmith was commissioned by The Rep to write this play, and she interviewed St. Louis residents.

She turned their voices into composites: retired police officer, barber, teacher, minister, high school student, and landlord

In this world premiere.

As a performer, she masterfully becomes these characters — seamlessly switching voices, cadences and postures to capture their personalities.

Powerful snapshots emerged — relatable, insightful, compelling, emotional, and dIsconcerting.

All affecting, but the two that stand out are the casual bigotry of a landlord ready to shoot without provocation and the anxiety of a smart black teen just trying to get out of school without incident. Is he allowed to dream of a future in this America?

Director Neel Keller has brought out compassion, hope, love and hate in equal measure.

The simple set and a few costume changes aid the storytelling.

Are we able to listen? Open to dialogue? Will it lead to understanding?

Since St. Louis became part of the national conversation, more incidents have happened in America.

This high-voltage piece is an example of what art can do — reflect a time and affect change. It may make us squirm and tear up.

But it can't not affect us.

The Rep and the earnest Orlandersmith has given our region a starting point. I could have listened to more — running time is only 70 minutes.

Theater is at its best when a shared sense of community occurs.

Until the Flood

When: Through Nov. 6

Where: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Mainstage, 130 Edgar Road

Informatin: Www.repstl.org or 314-968-4925