Dael Orlandersmith Credit: Robert Altman

There’s been no respite in the American crisis of police officers fatally
shooting civilians at a higher rate than in any other developed country—not
since the events in 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, that nationalized the Black
Lives Matter movement, and certainly not since the Justice Department took
an about-face under Attorney General Jeff Sessions and pledged to abdicate
its department-review duties. With that in mind, Dael Orlandersmith’s
unsparing series of monologues makes some big asks of its audience: to
listen to and better understand a multitude of perspectives—some heinous—on
the events that led to the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old
black man, at the hands of Darren Wilson, a white police officer, and to
continue seeking hope in a situation where so little is apparent.

Derived on dozens of interviews with Ferguson and Saint Louis residents,
Orlandersmith has crafted eight composite characters with layered, thorny
takes on the anger, fear, privilege, injustice, assumptions, and
institutional breakdowns that factor into the cycle of violence committed
against people of color by American law enforcement.

An elderly black woman confesses resentment toward Brown; a white
middle-aged woman grieves a friend from whom she became estranged because
of her sympathetic sentiment for Wilson; a black business owner bemoans the
naive “green-black and green-white” academics and artists who flocked to
Saint Louis in the aftermath and condescended to suburbanites. While Until the Flood is not forthrightly not a work of journalism, in
this Goodman Theatre production, directed by Neel Keller, Orlandersmith’s
masterful series of performances taps into theater’s distinct ability to
add in-the-room human voices and faces to hard conversations that are
otherwise increasingly held anonymously, digitally, and without empathy.   v