Until the Flood | The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

I’m not reviewing this show so much as I’m telling you to go and see it—now!


It’s not often that you hear names of neighborhoods you’re intimately familiar with spoken by characters onstage—the names of regions you live or work in or, perhaps, ones you drive through each day. Of course, this rarity is only a small part of what makes Until the Flood a powerful, world-premiere piece (especially if you’re a St. Louis native).

There’s a lot to love and admire about The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, and its sense of social responsibility is one of them. In light of the social unrest that followed the Aug. 9, 2014, shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old black man living in Ferguson, Mo., The Rep longed to do something. That desire turned into the solo performance piece that’s sparking conversation from their stage as we speak!

“After the explosive events in Ferguson, we at The Rep felt the compelling need to respond to such a momentous event in our community—one that was quickly drawing worldwide interest,” Augustin Family Artistic Director Steven Woolf explains in the show’s program. “We didn’t want to add to any confusion or heat about what happened, but instead to focus on the rich story to be discovered.”

And that’s exactly what they’ve done by commissioning actress, poet, and playwright Dael Orlandersmith to write and perform a show based on the conversations occurring locally. Although Orlandersmith isn’t a St. Louis native herself, you wouldn’t know that from listening to the words of the eight fictional St. Louisans she brings to life on stage. Even though they’re merely composites of people she interviewed in preparation for this project, they couldn’t feel more real.

Until the Flood doesn’t make any judgments and isn’t political in nature. It sides with neither Brown nor the white Ferguson officer, Darren Wilson, who shot him. Instead, on a stage surrounded by candles, signs, and stuffed animals, we meet people and hear their thoughts about what’s happening in the world around them. We hear from a black female minister, a black male barber, a white retired male police officer, and more—all played, I remind you, by Orlandersmith herself.

As you’ve probably gathered, I’m not reviewing this show so much as I’m telling you to go and see it—now! If you take nothing else away from this write-up, take that! While it’s fairly short in length, it’s definitely not short on impact. It’s not easy to approach a subject matter as complex and historically-rooted as this, but Orlandersmith’s show overwhelmingly succeeds at doing just that. | Megan Washausen

Until The Flood runs through November 6. For ticket information, click here.

Photo: Peter Wochniak / ProPhotoSTL.com

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