“Kill Move Paradise”
Playhouse on Park
Playhouse on Park is currently offering a video stream of its searing production of “Kill Move Paradise,” James Ijames’ devastating play. Taking place in a “weigh station” in the afterlife, “Kill Move Paradise” examines the lives of four young black men and exactly how they all got where they are. With strong performances by the entire cast, this show also takes in the audience that is watching the play—Playhouse on Park filmed the show on an outdoor stage in front of a group of theatergoers.
This is significant because, in “Kill Move Paradise,” the audience watching is a major part of the play and how it affects the four characters onstage. Director Dexter J. Singleton has done a brilliant job of staging this brief (just a little over an hour running time) but powerful play and this video stream of “Kill Move Paradise,” presented by Playhouse on Park, is pretty unforgettable and something of a must-see.
When “Kill Move Paradise” begins, it is on a shockingly empty white stage (well designed by Baron E. Pugh) and the first person we see is the character of Isa, portrayed by the supremely talented Trevel Morgan. This play takes place in a “cosmic waiting room” in the afterlife and Morgan is something of guide for the audience into the deeper recesses of this work. There is confusion by this character to exactly where he is, but there is also a mention by Isa that he has seen this place before. During the show, we are also introduced to Oliver Sai Lester, as Grif, Christopher Alexander Chukwueke, as Daz, and, finally, the character of Tiny (played by Quan Chambers). Beyond the continual questioning of not knowing where they are and why they are there, the common thing amongst the four characters is that they are all young black men and all killed before their time.
“Kill Move Paradise” focuses not only on the characters onstage, but also on the ever-growing succession of slain, unarmed black men and women in America. There is a scene in the show where Isa reads from a painfully long list of names of all those black men and women who have been killed. This moment is both heart-stopping and heartrending. This play may take place in the afterlife, but its focus is on the here and now and its portrait of lives lost is, tragically, all too real.
It should be mentioned that “Kill Move Paradise” also works as a dramatic piece and the four men in the show are all important and interesting people and the cast is uniformly fine. In addition to the excellent Trevele Morgan as Isa, the other three actors are also quite wonderful. There is Oliver Sai Lester, as Grif, who is heartbreaking in his desperation of how he has ended up in the afterlife and Christopher Alexander Chukwueke is equally good and brings a great deal of anger to his role of Daz. And then there is the character of Tiny, portrayed by the terrific Quan Chambers, who renders the most pain in the show, simply because he is the youngest of the characters onstage.
Director Dexter J. Singleton’s work is significant and impressive and he has staged the play extremely well. He also works wonderfully with his team of designers. Costume designer Vilinda McGregor has done a great job of providing costumes for the characters that help define each one of them. John D. Alexander’s lighting design is incisive and effective and the sound designer Lucas Clopton has done equally brilliant work, to the point where a “laugh track” used during the show becomes almost a nightmare to listen to.
Actually, “Kill Move Paradise” itself is nightmarish, both as a theatrical piece and in its creation: it is noted that playwright James Ijames was influenced to write this play because of the 2014 murder of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by a member of the Cleveland Police Department. The running time of “Kill Move Paradise” may be brief, but this is truly a work that will stay with you long after the show has ended. As noted, Playhouse on Park filmed this play in front of an audience, who become a character in the show, since the four black men onstage continually reference the people who are watching them. Both horrific and important in its impact, “Kill Move Paradise” puts a viewer in a vice-like grip and this play is riveting and frightening from beginning to end.
“Kill Move Paradise” will be able to be streamed at home until August 1, 2021. And it must be said that this show has been filmed extremely well for home viewing. For more information and tickets to stream the show, please visit www.playhouseonpark.org.
Photo: Christopher Alexander Chukweueke, Quan Chambers, Trevel Morgan, and Oliver Sai Lester