By Toby Zinman
For the Inquirer
Flashpoint Theatre Co. is giving Jacqueline Goldfinger’s new play, Slip/Shot, a fine premiere. This beautifully crafted and intensely moving drama about the legacy of racist fear is served by a powerful cast and an imaginative and skilled director, Rebecca Wright.
The plot is uncomplicated, but the characters are not. Clem (Kevin Meehan) is a new policeman in a small town near Tallahassee, sometime before now and sometime after Civil Rights laws were enacted. He is haunted by his no-good father and has turned his back on him. Clem’s wife, Kitty (Rachel Camp) is blonde and sexy, so it doesn’t seem to matter much that her cooking doesn’t extend beyond peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
Monroe (Akeem Davis) is a black senior in high school with a girlfriend, Phrasie (Taysha Canales) who has won a scholarship to college. After a night-time romantic picnic, Monroe is happily walking home, taking a route by the whites-only hospital. Clem is on guard duty, although since he has nothing to actually do, he is practicing slick moves with his revolver. When Monroe startles him, he accidentally shoots him. His mother (Cathy Simpson) who has been through it all, grieves. Phrasie is outraged, angry, wants revenge, wants to change the world. The sheriff (Keith Conallen) attempts to defuse a combustible situation.
Both Phrasie and Kitty will discover they are pregnant. The future incarnate.
Clem’s reaction to the shooting is growing paranoia, barricading them in the house for months, as his mind—and the kitchen—deteriorates. No wonder the stage is hung with Spanish moss, a visible manifestation of the play’s central parable of the Civil War: two boyswe're told, were locked together in fear; they squeeze the life out of each other, and after they died, their hair turned to tree moss, and floated all over the South.
The kitchen (excellent set by Caitlin Lanoff) –a plastic and linoleum sort of place—is shared by both the white characters and the black characters; as one enters the other exits, but unhurriedly, significantly inhabiting the room simultaneously for a minute, although always unaware of each other’s presence. The stuff that each side acquires—books, coupons, cardboard cartons, coke bottles, teddybears – remains and accumulates as history piles up.
Any talk about relevance to recent news seems to me to distort both the current event and the play, so it is perhaps best to take the play on its own merits which are many.
Flashpoint Theatre at the Adrienne Second Stage, 2030 Sansom. Through May 5. Tickets $15-22. Information: www.flashpointtheatre.org