Reverse-Fast Forward-Stop-Play-Skip-Go Back to the Beginning these commands are used to review videos in police investigations. It also provides the structure for the provocative nonlinear play SHEEPDOG. Part mystery, part love story, and part look at current events SHEEPDOG is a compelling and focused drama now playing at OnStage Playhouse through June 27th.
When the play opens we first see Amina (Tina Machele Brown) a young, Black, Cleveland police officer clutching a laptop. She is trying to get some information on an officer-involved shooting that took the life of a young man of color. Her quest isn’t just for justice, but also for clarity on the role Ryan ( Devvon Wade), her white partner on the force and in life played in the shooting. Told in a nonlinear way the play shows how their lives and careers came together, and how they are impacted by the events of one night.
Amina is reflective on how she and Ryan, both slow to trust, slowly built their relationship both on and off the force. Ryan is a likable guy; a little geeky, and though he is reluctant to discuss his rough childhood, determined to be a better person than his father. Amina likes that he is able to be vulnerable, he’s communicative, and understands how to push her to be her best.
When the shooting occurs he clearly communicates what happened, and she listens with bated breath to hear the reason for the shooting, hoping that it was justified. To her relief it is and she can now help him heal, and process while the official investigation goes on. Yet as time passes cracks in the timeline, and her own curiosity pushes her to look further into it, just to appease that wayward thought at the back of her mind.
The trouble with looking for the truth is that you may not like what you find out.
Directed by James P. Darvas, this one-act is part police procedural, and part love story, and he balances the pacing and interplay of these two parts well.
Brown and Wade have believable and easy chemistry together, so it is easy for the audience to root for them and be vested in their relationship.
Brown is dynamic and fierce as Amina who often times has to be both a police office and cultural educator to Ryan, and other white cops about how the world perceives both her and other people of color. Brown’s intensity and conflicted feelings are clear as her Amina delves further into the mystery of what happened.
Wade is sweet, funny, and supportive as Ryan who wants to learn and be a better person for his future children than the family he had as a child. When Ryan’s foundation is rocked due to the event and the subsequent events afterward are well evidenced in the physicality of his performance.
The name “sheepdog” from which the title is derived comes from a reference in a book Ryan is reading on the main groups that make up society. There are the civilians, the sheep, who could become easy prey. There are the wolves, who are the undesired predators. Then there are the sheepdogs, the hybrid part sheep and part predator who stand to protect their flock from the undesirables.
The question really becomes, what happens when the sheepdogs are protecting different flocks?
SHEEPDOG is playing at OnStage Playhouse through June 27th. For ticket and showtime information go to www.onstageplayhouse.org
Written by Kevin Artigue
Directed by James P. Darvas
Tina Machele Brown (Amina)
Devin Wade (Ryan)
Markuz Rodriguez (Male Voices)
Holly Stephenson (Female Voices)
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