On Friday, February 5th the play “Watching O.J.” begins another run in Los Angeles ending on the 28th.
I love this play and what better time to come back to the stage than when everyone is talking about the FX miniseries “American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson.”
“Watching O.J.” isn’t about the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman per se but rather about how Angeleno’s reacted leading up to the not guilty verdict and afterwards.
In the wide cross-section of L.A.’s diverse population, tensions ran high as people awaited the verdict in the O.J. Simpson murder case. It was October 3, 1995. Twenty years to the day, David McMillan’s new play returned to the scene with a passionate, multi-racial perspective on that crucial day. As the play’s characters patronize the Perfect Fit Cleaners and neighboring businesses, a volatile discussion about race and social class bubbles to the surface, one that is more relevant now than ever.
I saw this play at the invitation of one of the producers last fall in its first run and loved it. That’s saying a lot for me because I am not a huge theater person but the dialogue and cast made a believer out of me. I was the guest host for the talk back with the cast and audience afterwards and I have to say we had a very interesting and stimulating conversation.
Everyone and I mean everyone has an opinion on O.J. Simpson’s guilt or innocence and those opinions are just as strong today as they were on October 3, 1995. I remember watching people run out of their houses screaming “Not guilty! Not guilty!” Leading up to that moment folks were literally glued to their television sets. Where I was in Los Angeles there was a sense of pride and happiness that O.J. was found not guilty. Not so much I believe because they felt he was innocent but because people felt like for once Black people got over on a justice system that was forever getting over on them.
“Watching O.J.” brings us all back to that fateful October 3 in 1995 with a stellar cast and smart, witty and spot on dialogue from playwright David McMillan.
“As a black teen growing up in L.A., I was fascinated by how people were watching the trial,” said playwright David McMillan. “Specifically, how everybody was viewing the trial through their own distinct racial, cultural, and historical lens. Even now, ‘the facts’ of the case are often beside the point – what’s illuminating is how we look at those facts. Twenty years later, if the trial can force us to look at our friends, neighbors, co-workers, and most of all at ourselves and our own prejudices and biases – perhaps some good can come from Nicole and Ron’s tragic deaths. Maybe in remembering, we’ll appreciate how much race relations have improved since 1995, or how much they haven’t.”
“Watching O.J.” stars Angela Bullock, Kareem Ferguson, Robert Gossett (“Fences”, “A Raisin in the Sun”, “The Closer”, “The Net”), Tony Pasqualini, Lisa Renee Pitts (“Straight Outta Compton”), Tarah Pollock and Roy Vongtama. The play is directed Keith Szarabajka.
And if you’re not sold yet, Angela Bullock was just nominated for a Los Angeles Drama Critics Award for a Lead Role for her performance in “Watching O.J.”
I think I’ll be back again to host one of the talk backs after a performance and once I have the date I’ll post it in case you want to come when I’m there but some stellar celebrity guests are lined up to host the talk backs throughout the plays run.
So here are the deets:
“Watching O.J.” runs at 8pm Fridays and Saturdays, 2pm Sundays, through February 28. Ensemble Studio Theatre/LA is located in the Atwater Village Theatre complex 3269 Casitas Ave. LA, CA 90039. Tickets: $19.95 at watchingoj.com or (818) 858-0440.
Twitter and Instagram: @watchingoj
If you’re in Los Angeles, get out to see this play before it ends! Who know we might run into each other 🙂