Through May 6|
THE TRIAL OF TRAYVON MARTIN Manny Fried Playhouse/Subversive Theatre
By Augustine Warner
Gary Earl Ross’ “The Trial of Trayvon Martin” is a: What if? play.
What if: Instead of George Zimmerman killing Trayvon Martin and pleading he was standing his ground, Zimmerman died and Martin was charged with killing the gun-obsessed neighborhood watch stalker?
That’s the premise, as Florida’s bizarre criminal justice system brings the teen to trial.
If you think bizarre is a bad word, just remember this is the state where the governor pulled a prosecutor in a cop murder case off because she said she wouldn’t ask for the death penalty.
Here, the arresting cop (Lawrence Rowswell) isn’t sure any charges should be filed while the hard-charging prosecutor (Kunji Rey) wants a scalp for her wall.
While the original case and trial were world-wide famous, Ross plays down the sensations of his version although it would probably be even more publicized.
Martin (Brian Brown) did the usual stupid teen thing when he fled the scene, leaving him vulnerable.
Detective Hooks just is never convinced this is all the right thing, to prosecute the kid.
The more he probes Zimmerman, the stranger he becomes, with a wife whose story doesn’t hold together well.
Obviously, Ross has his thumb on the scale of the plot, as it works through the trial and the verdict.
Prosecutor Anita is a mix of avenging angel and power-hungry careerist.
Defense lawyer Imani (Shawnell Tillery) is an enigma, only late in the relatively short play do we get some understanding of why she does what she does.
The trial has a prosecution-oriented judge who is only a voice in the theater.
Director Kurt Schneiderman uses a lot of voice-overs for the production, a couple I recognized, and it does cut costs.
Ross has been here before, since this isn’t his first visit to the stage rodeo and he knows how to push buttons.
As usually true in event-based theater, he gets to tell the story he wants to tell, the way he wants to tell it.
He’s clearly convinced the system railroaded Trayvon Martin in real life and the play makes it clear he’s being railroaded here, even with Rowswell’s Hooks trying to slow the express and take a hard look at the events.
Instead, Anita gets what she wants, another notch on her designer belt and maybe a promotion in the office or a ladder for a jump to the better paid defense side.
Ross has written a story from the other side, the lower end of the criminal justice system, people of color colliding with the system.
That’s why “The Trial of Trayvon Martin” is so interesting, what few see in a courtroom unless they have spent a whole lot of time sitting in a courtroom monitoring the process and what happens.
Martin is a pawn, a cog in the process who will pay a terrible price for a few moments of his own stupidity and years of stupidity by George Zimmerman.
It’s, unfortunately, way too accurate.
What hurts the production in the tiny Manny Fried Playhouse is that several of the performers have voices not even up to being heard in this small theater.
Maybe another weekend of the show will make those occasionally inaudible performers understand the message isn’t much good if they can’t be heard.
Still, see “The Trial of Trayvon Martin.”
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