I am not equipped to write this review.
That much was apparent from the moment I saw Daryl “Spook” Spokane (Meshaun Labrone) stoically reclining on the day of his execution in Spook, a play written and performed by Labrone himself.
Daryl is a police officer, or was before he gunned down his colleagues and fellow officers at the precinct. We’re told from the jump that Daryl “has not given a statement” since the attack, and in fact has not spoken in the years since his arrest.
“Spook,” however, is anything but silent, from the opening scene to the emotional conclusion. This one-man play is told entirely from Daryl’s prison cell, against the backdrop of his first and only television interview about the attack.
Daryl assures us that despite the violent horror of his actions, he isn’t angry. “Anger does not dwell within this vessel,” he says. By his telling, Daryl’s attack was a simple reaction to a decaying world where people consistently fail the most basic tests of humanity, and justice is reserved for everyone who doesn’t look like Daryl.
Except it isn’t that simple.
closes July 26, 2018
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Raised in a Muslim home, Daryl tells us of his early years growing up as a middle-class Black kid in a middle-class Black neighborhood. We learn that life changed quickly for Daryl when he and his family moved to a predominantly white community, and not for the better. Then they changed again when white-flight took hold in that community, placing Daryl squarely between the Black families who arrived and the white families who remain.
This scene – like so many others – isn’t pretty.
Seeking to bring honor upon himself and justice to the world around him, Daryl eventually becomes a member of the police force. He expects to find like-minded public servants, but instead discovers a precinct infected with predatory officers and indifferent leadership. All attempts to change the system are met with ridicule, up to an including the titular, racially-charged nickname the other officers demand he adopt.
What unfolds is a story of rage, privilege, police brutality, interracial tension and what Daryl views as deep-seated failings in the character of Black America.
Did I mention that I’m not equipped to write this review?
Actor Meshaun Labrone – himself a former police officer — is known (or damn well should be known) for his incredible performance in “POWER! Stokely Carmichael” during the 2015 Capital Fringe Festival. Patrons of that performance who have come back for more won’t be disappointed by Labrone’s return to the stage in Spook. Labrone has range that gives the play emotional punch. He’s possessed by characters that erupt throughout the “interview,” giving the play much-needed variety. And all of this means that the occasional technical flub or tripped-over line are either unnoticed or quickly forgiven.
What might be harder for the audience to digest is that there’s no making sense of the play’s moral objective, any more than there’s sense to be made in Daryl’s brutal murders. If you need proof, look no further than the dedication in your playbill.
Labrone wrote a play about a cop gone wrong — one who murders other cops gone wrong – and dedicates it to “all those members that served with Honor and Integrity within the Metropolitan Police Department.”
The play probes deep into an open wound that is as relevant to the real world we live in as anything you’ll see along the Wharf throughout the Fringe Festival.
Spook offers no answers. Only questions. But they’re questions worth asking.
Spook . written and performed by Meshaun Labrone at Capital Fringe Festical.
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