The L.A. Riots Revisited in Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 Runs through April 9 at the Mark Taper Forum
By Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA
The “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992” cast members (from left) Hugo Armstrong, Sabina Zúñiga Varela, Lovensky Jean-Baptiste, Jeanne Sakata, and Lisa Reneé Pitts play multiple characters on stage at the Mark Taper Forum through April 9, 2023. Photo by Craig Schwartz Photography.
Where were you on March 3, 1991? If your response is Los Angeles or watching the news, then you were in the midst of the story that stunned the nation: The Rodney King Beating. Even though the beating was caught on tape, the four white LAPD officers Timothy Wind, Sgt. Stacey Koon, Theodore Briseno, and Laurence Powell were acquitted for savagely beating 25-year-old King on April 29,1992. The verdict set off the infamous L.A. Riots.
A second trial of the four officers was order by the Justice Department on April 30, 1992.
Days later, on May 3, 1992, the riot aftermath resulted in 58 deaths, 2,383 injuries, 12,111 arrests and 3,100 damaged businesses.
On April 17, 1993, the verdict from the second trial resulted in two of the officers being acquitted on the civil rights violation and two were found guilty of violating King's civil rights.
The trauma from that video, the uprising, and the aftermath still haunts the City of Los Angeles and similar senseless and often deadly incidents have echoed across the USA from 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri to 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota and 29-year-old Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tennessee, and more.
This year marks the 30-year anniversary of the world premiere of award-winning playwright Anna Deavere Smith’s landmark one-woman American play, “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.” The powerful and intense play directed by Los Angeles-based director Gregg T. Daniel helms the new production featuring a talented multicultural cast including Hugo Armstrong, Lovensky Jean-Baptiste, Julia Cho, Matthew Hancock, Marcos Nájera, Lisa Reneé Pitts, Jeanne Sakata, and Sabina Zúñiga Varela.
The play is a poignant reflection on the events that took place in Los Angeles in 1992 after the acquittal of the police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King.
Smith interviewed 320 people and masterfully blended those verbatim interviews, personal reflections, and fictionalized accounts of the events surrounding the Los Angeles riots. Each member of the cast portrays multiple characters from Rep. Maxine Waters to the Reginald Denny each with their own unique perspective on the events and their aftermath. The result is a complex and nuanced portrayal of a city in turmoil, struggling to come to terms with issues of race, class, and power.
Hugo Armstrong gives a particularly powerful performance as Reginald Denny, a white truck driver who was beaten unconscious during the riots. Lovensky Jean-Baptiste is also excellent in his portrayal of a young African-American man trying to navigate the complexities of race and identity in the aftermath of the riots.
Sabina Zúñiga Varela plays multiple characters including L.A. News Service reporter Judith Tur in “Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.” Photo by Craig Schwartz Photography
The set design and lighting are also noteworthy, effectively creating the atmosphere of a city on the brink of chaos. The use of video projections and sound design also add to the immersive experience of the play.
King died from an accidental drowning on June 17, 2012. He was 47 years old.
George Holliday, a plumber, whose videotape captured the inhumane treatment endured by King, died in 2021 due to complications of COVID-19.
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Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 is a thought-provoking and emotionally resonant production that serves as a reminder of the importance of confronting issues of racial injustice and inequality.
Performances run Tuesday through Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. until April 9, 2023. Info: (213) 628-2772 or centertheatregroup.org. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes, including one 15-minute intermission.
Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA is a global public relations consultant, playwright, book author, and film producer. She is the founder and owner of Platinum Star Public Relations, The Black Hollywood Entertainment, a non-profit, and other business enterprises.