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This article by Simon Saltzman was prepared for the February 13,
2002 edition of U.S.
1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
In New York: `Brutal Imagination’
The horrifying details of the crime committed by South
Carolina mother Susan Smith are given a pretentiously lyrical, but
also compelling, resonance in "Brutal Imagination," the work
of poet Cornelius Eady, with jazz composer Diedre Murray and director
Susan Smith was charged and convicted in 1994 of the deaths of her
two young sons, Michael and Alexander, ages 3 and 14 months
She strapped them securely in the back seat of her car that she then
pushed into a lake. The incidents surrounding the case are depicted
through an abstracted fiction laced with factual reportage.
The most powerful fiction is called Mr. Zero, the black man that Smith
invented for the authorities when she needed a fast and credible
for her conduct. And it is Mr. Zero who becomes the catalyst for
events through editorializing and poeticizing.
"Brutal Imagination" serves less pointedly to consider Smith’s
state of mind. This is dramatized from an emotionally cautious and
intellectually distant perspective. Mr. Zero, however, is a vivid
creation, one who fits Smith’s description to the police of the black
man in plaid shirt and knit cap who, she claimed, jumped into her
Mazda, gun in hand, taking her and the boys as captives.
The play is a series of monologues that have been culled, edited,
and transposed from a cycle of poems by Eady, enhanced with media
coverage. Exceptionally well acted (considering the limitations put
on them by the play’s structure and style) by Sally Murphy, as Susan
Smith, and Joe Morton, as Mr. Zero, the phantom black threat. Morton’s
character has an ironic twist and is allowed to engage us with a
of black stereotypes, giving us a brief, albeit redundant, history
of racial prejudice.
We see Smith as a composite of the fears, biases, and prejudices that
presumably come with the territory. Murphy’s most stirring moment
comes as she reads from the kiss-off letter sent to her by her married
boyfriend. Although the creators would like to make us quiver at the
thought of how easy it was for Smith to con the Southern detectives,
the fact remains that it took only nine days for them to break the
case and get a full confession from Smith.
"Brutal Imagination" uses mood music effectively and the stage
is provocatively set with an artistically conceived pyramid-like
consisting of various parts and pieces of a car, a baby carriage,
and other debris. The set, like the text, is soon scattered about
and unlikely to shed more light on this case than we had before we
arrived. Two stars. Maybe you should have stayed home.
— Simon Saltzman
New York, 212-353-0303. $15 to $45.
February 23, at City Center Studios, 130 West 56th Street, New York,
from 2 to 9 p.m. All adult and youth gospel choirs, adult and youth
groups, soloists, Christian rappers, poets, praise dancers, and
are eligible to enter. A three-minute video or audio audition tape
may be mailed by Thursday, February 28, to McDonald’s Gospelfest 2002,
50 Park Place, Suite 1222, Newark 07102.
a four-week acting workshop, Monday, June 24, to Sunday, July 21,
$2,500; and four-week filmmaking workshops, Monday, June 24, to
July 21, or Monday, July 15 to Sunday, August 11, $3,775. Call
or Website: www.nyfa.com
school and middle school musicians. Vocal, music theater, piano,
flute, and organ camps and workshops . $675 to $950 including room
and board. Register. Call 609-924-7416, ext. 227.
dancers, sculptures, actors, playwrights, poets, professionals, and
amateurs. The festival will be held Saturday, April 27. Call Pam Mount
at 609-924-2310 if you or your group is interested in performing,
showing, or volunteering for the event.
as the advisor to a youth chess club meeting one evening per week
beginning in April. Call Leah Kloc at 732-521-5000, ext. 116.
telephone hotline. Training classes in March. Call 609-896-2120.
available at www.kmm.org that features businesses that deliver
or services to Middlesex consumers at home or work. Call Cristina
C. Fowler, 732-745-4318.
donations of books, CDs, audio books, video tapes, software, and small
arts items for its annual book sale, set for Wednesday through Sunday,
March 19 to 24. Tax receipt available. Call 609-799-0462.
has a non-perishable food drive to benefit the local food bank.
at the fitness center are available with donation. Call 609-750-1100.
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