This play is part of OnyxFest 2022, a production of Africana Repertory Theatre of IUPUI (ARTI) and IndyFringe, “Indy’s First and Only Theater Festival Dedicated to the Stories of Black Playwrights.” Initial performances were the weekend of Nov. 3-6 at the Basile Theatre in the IndyFringe building. The second weekend of performances are Thursday through Saturday, Nov. 10-12, at the IUPUI Campus Center Theater, 420 University Boulevard, Indianapolis. Recordings of performances will be available at ButlerArtsCenter.org. For more information, see OnyxFest.com.
By Wendy Carson
The saying, “An eye for and eye and a tooth for a tooth will lead to a world of the blind and toothless,” kept running through my head while watching “Police State,” written and directed by Rain Wilson. This play asks one of the most difficult questions of our current climate: What will it take to get people, especially police, to stop threatening and killing Black men out of fear of their skin color?
There is no easy answer. The scenario Wilson presents shows direct revenge is certainly not the solution, but what is?
The plot revolves around the death of a young man, *Amadi, shot in the back several times by a police officer while trying to walk home. B.J. (Atiyya Radford) tries to get his friend Mo (Deont’a Stark) to attend a justice rally he is organizing. Mo says the protest won’t solve anything and will probably lead to more violence at the hands of the police.
The victim’s father Abu (D’Anthony Massey) and mother Gloria (Shakisha Michelle) argue about how they should proceed in order to recompence their loss. Gloria knows that nothing will bring her son back, so in her eyes justice will never be gained. Abu feels that killing the officer responsible will show everyone that changes to the system need to be made, even declaring it a form of community “self defense.” His white brother-in-law Mark (Bryan Gallet) tries to be supportive but is no help at all, saying all the wrong (yet familiar sounding) things.
I don’t want to spoil the ending but here’s what I can say: Much heated and important discussion occurs; another man dies; and no solution presents itself.
Wilson’s story is tough to watch, as it evaluates much of the current ideology regarding this situation and clearly shows that there are no easy answers. However, it does offer a jumping off point in which to start a dialogue to try to find some beginning steps towards a solution.
*”Amadi” (primarily meaning “free man”) is fictional, but reminiscent of numerous victims of police violence. A quick web search by this name brought up Amadou Diallo, shot more than 40 times by New York police in 1999 when the unarmed man reached for his wallet. Also fresh in local memory is the killing by police of Dreasjon Reed in Indianapolis in 2020. Black lives matter.