Scraps: A Review
Two thirds of Scraps at The Flea Theater keeps things one hundred percent real. It must because the stakes are high. This is a play that seeks to address the loss of young black lives at the end of the barrel of a police officer’s gun. This is an angry piece of work and rightfully so. The death toll is seemingly astronomical and the end is nowhere in sight. This behavior not only impacts our society as a whole and a people at their core but it tears at the lives of the living left behind in the wake of bloodshed and violence directed at their next generation.
The story of Scraps is told through the lives, minds, and hearts of four black friends who have suffered a loss close to home. Their unarmed brother was unjustly shot one night in their Brooklyn neighborhood by a white cop. Time passes but the open wounds deep in their psyches have festered and as much as they try to go on, the memories persist and the anger grows. Each one’s coping mechanism is different. Most will survive and move on. One will not. The cast here, known collectively as The Bats, is at their very best. Each actor delivers the goods as individuals and as an ensemble as well. Scraps is a powerhouse production and The Bats ensemble lands every potent jolt right to the gut.
Playwright Geraldine Inoa has a strong voice. She writes with a firm fist in protest and a conviction that harbors no hesitation. She knows exactly when and how to let her characters breathe and draw us in. She also knows how to ramp up the drama to not only move her audience but to make us squirm in our seats and in our consciousness as well. Director Niegel Smith also has a firm grasp on the reins of what could easily become a runaway barrage of emotions and acrimony. The characters are always on the brink of losing control, their language is sharp, nasty, and brutal even when they’re attempting to be affectionate through the pain.
The troubled final third of Scraps sadly devolves into a surreal stew of mixed messages and distorted metaphors. One can see where the attempt is being made to emphasize and punctuate what came before it but the attempt becomes muddled and detracts from the clarity of purpose that came before it. The play would have been better served with the same voice throughout, which might have made for a much more poignant ending. A direct approach is sometimes best, especially with such potent words constructed by a truly gifted writer.
The design team served the production well. Set designer Ao Li created a gritty world with the simplest of icons. The most important apartment building door and stoop, a bodega gate front emblazoned with the watchful painted eyes of Biggie Smalls, a lamppost and garbage can that will come to be a haunted memory. Lighting designer Kate McGee superbly lights the real and imagined moments and the frightening ones as well. Sound designer Megan Deets Culley punctuates those moments as well but what’s missing is the constant sounds of the streets. The sounds of the people. The sounds of life in the background throughout.
Though we may all live in different places in this country, we all live in the same neighborhood. In that place there’s a new loss every month, every week, every day it seems. Though we may all live in the same neighborhood we reside in a place where who you are is defined by the exact place where you live. Scraps reminds that some of us live where danger is ever present, choices are sometimes few, and lives are lead in the aftermath of those losses. Some of us live in a world where you’re nobody until somebody kills you.
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Edward Medina is an active member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA) and welcomes comments at EdwardMedinaAuthor@gmail.com.