By Daarel Burnette II
This article was originally published in DC Theater Arts here.
I love theater for its potential to synthesize and succinctly reflect back to us traumatic moments in history, and serve as a healing device.
The 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that resulted in the senseless death of Heather Heyer when a white supremacist rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protestors is a wound that’s still fresh.
Priyanka Shetty doesn’t flinch in her dynamic production of #Charlottesville, playing during this week’s Capital Fringe festival presented by Voices Festival Productions. In 75 minutes, she muscles through the leadup, clash, and fallout of a day most Americans would rather forget.
Her research is comprehensive. Her acting is poignant. Her stamina is stunning.
It’s exceedingly difficult to tell recent nonfiction stories about race. Our identities, politics, and chaotic modes of news consumption pollute our memories. And mainstream American culture has inconveniently deemed day-to-day conversations on race as taboo.
Priyanka, under the direction of A. Lorraine Robinson, exploits the tools of theater to walk audiences through the many ways residents, UVA students, activists, and politicians perceived the taking down of the Confederate statues, the election of President Donald Trump, and that fateful day when it all came to a head.
Dressed in khaki pants and a black turtleneck, Priyanka does a spot-on characterization of multiple witnesses, sensitively respecting their perspectives while also upholding the truth of what did and did not happen.
Effective use of lighting, sound, and stage direction keeps the narration succinct. What results is a salve that deserves recognition beyond DC.