Following last season’s feminist theme, The Flea now shifts attention to “Color Brave.” If Scraps by Geraldine Inoa is any indication, 2018-19 is going to be daring and necessary, words not applied enough to local theatre. The hard-hitting tragedy is now playing at the Flea’s Siggy stage featuring resident actors The Bats.
Scraps is not only a world premiere, it also marks Geraldine Inoa’s debut as a professional playwright. A scriptwriter for The Walking Dead and recipient of a writing grant established by Shonda Rhimes, her play has no zombies or prime-time McDreamy/McSteamy romance, and the dialogue would never pass ABC or even AMC censors. Theatre still provides an immediate, creative freedom not even cable offers.
On Memorial Day weekend 2014, Forest, Brooklyn high school football star and Florida State Scholarship recipient, died from gunshot wounds. As his best friend Jean-Baptiste (Roland Lane) powerfully explains, the shooter was a White policeman. “What’s past is prologue,” he laments. The next 90 minutes reveal how Forest’s death impacts his girlfriend Aisha (Alana Raquel Bowers), her sister Adriana (Tanyamaria), and other friend Calvin (Michael Oloyede). Survivors’ grief destabilizes already strained relationships. Aisha, mother of Forest’s son Sebastian, and Calvin started their affair before Forest’s death. Adriana resents Aisha because of her looks, Calvin because he goes to Columbia and puts her down for attending NYU and both of them for their relationship. Adriana, Aisha and Jean-Baptiste are upset with Calvin for coming home three months after the shooting. They briefly manage coming together when dancing to Forest’s favorite song, Notorious B.I.G’s “Notorious Thugs” playing on the radio. The reconciliation is permanently interrupted by a White Cop (Andrew Baldwin).
What follows is unexpected and uncomfortable – partly from what happens and some unclear writing. That’s not a knock on Geraldine Inoa. This first play indicates she’s already a good writer who is only going to get better. It’s three years later and the audience now meets eight-year-old Sebastian (Bryn Carter). During what begins as a church service, transforms into a game show and ends on the street he lives on, Sebastian attempts learning about his father. Inoa is deliberately vague on details, except one: an unloved child learns all too well from those around him. Sebastian’s stomach pains are not imaginary.
Violence and anger describe Scraps, but grief defines it. Inoa adds immediacy to a national tragedy brought to a Brooklyn stoop. But those Forest left behind are not only in shock over how he died, but that he’s no longer there, Her other message is of untapped potential. Calvin and Adriana (Forest too) made it to college, Aisha is resourceful and Jean-Baptiste is an avid reader and born storyteller. Sadly, none have the guidance or resources to live the lives they want.
The Flea’s Artistic Director Niegel Smith keeps the deep realities and fantasies immediate for cast and audience alike. The Bats are always reliable, but the six actors here are exceptional.
Scraps by Geraldine Inoa opened on August 30, 2018 and been extended through September 29, 2018 at The Flea (20 Thomas Street, NYC). Further information and tickets are available on The Flea’s website. Due to the Siggy’s small size and the production’s popularity, it is advisable purchasing tickets in advance.