“Statements After An Arrest Under the Immortality Act,” dir. by Emily Marie Harvey and Jordan-Michael Widbey

My editor always told me not to use rhetorical questions in my articles. But a production like Theater Schmeater’s “Statements After An Arrest Under the Immortality Act” mostly offers unanswerable questions.

What makes love immoral?

Honestly, the largest question you might have after leaving the theater is “What just happened?” but it’s the right question to ask yourself. Athol Fugard wrote a startling and effective piece of theater that challenges you to understand a different skin.

Two lovers, one black one white, are found bare naked and afraid.

Amanda Rae, Darien Torbert (4) photo by Dave Hastings (1)
Photo courtesy of Dave Hastings

It’s South Africa during the apartheid and the Immortality Act dictates their love illegal. We watch as personal intimacies are flailed about in a public trial. The lovers are forced to defend their relationship without any resources, not even their clothes to protect them.

The play is set in two parts, one in darkness with the two lovers. The other is after capture – here the production plays with shadows and spotlights. Be wary of the penetrating quality of light.

Questions burn in your head after viewing. Schmeater takes the script’s full potential to fruition. During the first half, the stage is shrouded in darkness and the lovers Errol Philander (Darien Torbert) and Frieda Joubert (Amanda Rae) lay nude together. Here, Torbert takes full control of the dramatic action. Faced with the challenge of acting while the audience can’t even see your face, Torbert excels in using the sway of his voice and a staggering stage presence. He builds his character strongly even in total darkness.

The light is turned on to their affair by Detective-Sergeant J. du Preez (Chris Shea), who shares maybe ten minutes of the stage time all together. Shea commands a cooling presence of villainy in every step. Both he and Rae utilize the 50-seat theater to their best advantage, bravely playing with the fourth wall.

Rae has the majority of the dialogue in the latter part of the play. We hear one gut-wrenching oration after another. Tears and shrieks fill the room as we watch a woman stripped down, bit by bit, entirely.

Amanda Rae photo by Dave Hastings
Photo courtesy of Dave Hastings

Much props to dialect coach Marianna de Fazio: All the accents in “Statements” are solid yet fluid throughout the 85-minute show. This important part of world building can unravel even the best of productions. Here, we don’t have that worry.

The play is heavy and hits fast. There’s not much time to catch your breath and it’s a lot to unpack. But, and this at risk of sounding like a total cheese ball, productions like “Statements” remind me why I love live theater. The challenges this play presents are its biggest virtue. You have an experience that is raw and uncomfortable but also intimate and inclusive.

If you have a chance to see the work of Fugard live, you should take it. Said best in the directors’ note: “Both the directors read [“Statements”] in college … Outside of college you are exposed more to shows that challenge the audience and the actors less.” We aren’t always presented with the opportunity to experience theater like this.

You only have two more weekends, the show closes on August 12th. Tickets can be found here: statements.brownpapertickets.com

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