It’s the silence in TimeLine Theatre Company’s production of James ljames’ “Kill Move Paradise” that will haunt you. As when Isa, Daz, Tiny or Grif look you in the eye and say nothing. Or when they ask something and your brain races, your eyes boring into their faces, wondering if you are supposed to answer. If you are, what do you say? How do you speak into existence the truths that are supposedly self-evident?
The silence in “Kill Move Paradise” will seep into your soul. The discomfort of quietude weaves through the audience like a specter, an ever-present reminder of the conversations we’ve had, the judgements we’ve passed and the utter lack of change. As the show progresses and the silence follows you like a shadow, you’ll hear more wrapper crinkles. Shoe scuffing. Throat clearing. Uncomfortable chuckles. Anything to break the deafening silence. Anything to remind us that we’re still alive.
We’re still alive.
“Kill Move Paradise” isn’t just a play. It’s a place. It’s the purgatory where black bodies are thrown mercilessly when someone in the world decides it’s their time to go. When a person clad in a uniform of authority makes the ultimate decision. Kill Move Paradise, the place, is where human beings metamorphosize into their celestial bodies and, before they do, they’re observed by a group of people.
Ryan Emens’ simple set—a black-and-white marbleized stage with a ramp to nowhere—is a bringer of false hope, a red herring meant to distract the men on stage from making progress. It is an insurmountable slope that will not give them peace. They’ll scale it time and time again with no success, a feat that can bring an audience to tears from laughter or sorrow. Jason Lynch’s lights and Jeffrey Levin’s sound join forces, the sound an otherworldly bell that tolls all too often with too little earthly consequence.
A printer answers the bell’s toll, spitting out another name. Another list. Another testament to human suffering. Black injustice. White supremacy. Police brutality. Another name.
When a transcendent Kai A. Ealy (Isa) takes that list and reads it, giving power back to the fallen, his voice finds a melody. The melody speaks to Charles Andrew Gardner (Daz) and Cage Sebastian Pierre (Grif) who translate it into a mournful and powerful dance. This dance, along with so many other allusions, speak to the history and pride cut short. Intertwining these moments of physical expression, choreographer Breon Arzell marries the possibility of movement with the intensity of emotion, giving way to a story told with body, word and spirit.
At the center of this play’s quandaries is Trent Davis as Tiny, the young man whose mere presence forces the trio to come to terms with their own childhoods, lives and black American experiences. Davis emanates a stage aura far beyond his years, a charisma that will serve him well in productions for decades to come.
Wardell Julius Clark’s direction is perfectly matched with Arzell’s skill for shaping movement. While Arzell fills the stage with an impressive array of storytelling physicality, Clark directs the atmosphere in a way only he can. He plays up the meta moments that spark a ripple of laughter before ripping the rug from beneath our feet. Clark, along with his talented quartet, have orchestrated one hell of a concert, an experience that will attune your ears to the unspeakable silence.
It’s simply up to you to listen. (Amanda Finn)
TimeLine Theatre Company, 615 West Wellington, (773)281-8463, timelinetheatre.com, $42-$57. Now available for remote viewing through April 19.