“Until the Flood” – Stray Cat Theatre

Theater Review – February 17, 2024

“UNTIL THE FLOOD” DISCUSSES TERRIBLE RACIAL ISSUES BUT WEAK STAGING TURNS THE PLAY BLAND

“Until the Flood”
Stray Cat Theatre, Studio Theatre, Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe, AZ

By Chris Curcio
Theater Critic

An unusually small opening night audience greeted Stray Cat Theatre’s Arizona premiere production of Dael Orlandersmith’s “Until the Flood” with a standing ovation.  Unfortunately, this was an unwarranted reaction to a penetrating play.  Based on the unjustified murder by white cops of Michael Brown, the play is a perceptive and insightful look at the appalling racial treatment throughout the nation but it focuses on situations that occurred in St. Louis, Missouri in the 1960’s as seen in 2015.

The problem is that “Until the Flood” is a solo show so a single performer must dynamically portray eight male and female characters plus The Narrator who have wildly variated views of what transpired.  Each character’s very different reaction to the prejudices is not well handled by Ryan L. Jenkins who fails to differentiate enough in either accents or stature between the characters.  They all blend together which makes the play drag and plod where it should be interesting and compelling.  Jenkins relies on costume changes to provide the character differences but clothes are but a small part of the erratic variations between the people the playwright uses to tell her story.

You can’t successfully stage a solo play without a superb performer and Jenkins is not vibrant or varied enough to sustain interest over the play’s 90-minute running time.  Everything blurs into a monotonous sameness which is not what the play demands to become a telling example of how badly this country has handled racial disparities.  The performer isn’t helped by Elena Conti’s meandering staging which has Jenkins roaming around the cluttered stage randomly and without purpose.

The play effectively traumatizes the awful 1960’s racial treatment but neither Jenkins nor the production keep these terrible things at the forefront as it rambles on for an achingly tedious time.

“Until the Flood” is the weakest Stray Cat Theatre production ever.  This theater company has become known for impressive stagings of interesting plays and Stray Cat Theatre needs to get back to delivering the top-notch productions we have come to expect from them.  Mendacity does not make for good theater.  “Until the Flood” continues through March 2.  To order tickets, call the Stray Cat Theatre box office at 480-350-2822 or order tickets online at www.straycattheatre.org.

Grade: C