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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 10 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 41
Excellent acting in Slip/Shot overshadowed by technical shortcomings and disappointing script
Arts & Entertainment
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Excellent acting in Slip/Shot overshadowed by technical shortcomings and disappointing script

by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

SLIP/SHOT
SEATTLE PUBLIC THEATER
Through October 12


Seattle Public Theater often combines great technical design (especially for a mid-sized theater) and challenging and well-done productions. Some of the best in town. It's easy to see why they might choose to do the play Slip/Shot by Jacqueline Goldfinger. A security guard shoots an unarmed African-American teen and claims it is an accident. It sounds like it would be an extremely topical and challenging play.

Though written around 2012, Goldfinger sets the action in 1960s small town southern America. Some dialogue is poetic, some sociologically relevant (women were expected to stay home and take care of their husbands), and the script probably reads well. Unfortunately, it disappoints.

However, the SPT production is well-cast with excellent actors, with not a false acting note among them.

Goldfinger establishes a white security guard, Clem, young and untried, with an uncomfortable macho attitude (Quinn Armstrong) and his new wife, Kitty (Jocelyn Maher). She introduces Miz. Athey (Faith Russell), a librarian and single mother of a 17-year-old boy, Monroe (Treavor Boykin) and his girlfriend, Euphrasie (Marquicia Dominguez). Clem is mishandling his gun during his watch and does fire it accidentally at Monroe. So, we know from the start that it really is an accident.

(That premise is quite different from the current circumstances of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. Neither of those teens was accidentally shot. Goldfinger's script does not evoke, then, current and unjustified shootings.)

Clem has a father who is clearly racist, though we never meet him, and Clem wants to distance himself from the legacy of his father, and the shooting seems to make him feel like he's accidentally done something his father would condone. However, that theme - wanting to disassociate from parents - is not fleshed out in any significant or informative way.

The librarian seems grieved that her son is dead, but reacts with hostility to Euphrasie voicing outrage over the death. This seems overly conciliatory to the social order, even for a compliant 1960s. The town sheriff (Roy Stanton) tells Clem and Kitty to lock themselves at home in case a reactive black community becomes threatening, yet no further development of that plot occurs, either.

Goldfinger's script calls for a single kitchen set, which is used by both the white couple and the African-American woman and her family to represent their respective kitchens. The door that moves into and away from view on the left side of the stage is the entrance to the African-American family's kitchen and the door that moves into and away from view on the right side of the stage is the entrance to the white couple's kitchen. The technical effort in this production of having two very, very slow moving kitchen doors mechanically moving into and away from the set is lugubrious to the extreme and hampers this production.

There are so many topics the script could have tackled just from the structure Goldfinger created: black/white relationships in the 1960s (the play does not help us understand that), the legacy of the parent/child relationship, law enforcement in the 1960s, women's roles in the 1960s, small town biases, what forgiveness looks like and whether it is possible in this situation, the list goes on but Goldfinger doesn't shed any light on these.

Again, the acting was fine, including Trevor Cushman as a guard friend of Clem's who seems to be in love with Kitty. The set design was fine (designed by Craig Wollam), the costumes (Chelsea Cook) and sound (Andre Nelson and Evan Mosher) and lighting (Paul Arnold) were fine. In the main, the directing (Kelly Kitchens) was fine, though some directing choices seem to have emphasized empty lengths of time. So, the main disappointment must be the script appearing to be better on the page than on the stage.

For more information, go to www.seattlepublictheater.org or call 206-524-1300.

Discuss your opinions with sgncritic@gmail.com or go to www.facebook.com/SeattleTheaterWriters. More articles can be found at miryamstheatermusings.blogspot.com.

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