THEATER REVIEW : ‘Unjustifiable Acts’ Spotlights Social Ills


A Chicago police officer shoots and kills an unarmed man in a dark hallway. The cop is white, the victim is black, the racial tension is thick.

Whether the cop should be charged with murder is only the first of several issues raised by Aaron Iverson in “Unjustifiable Acts,” an Atomic Theatre Company production at the Powerhouse. It also becomes a drama about sexual harassment, media politics, racial solidarity, and finally, the delicate interracial relationship between the accused (Ann Cusack) and her attorney (Nick Gillie).

The characters are absorbing creations, including the African American city councilwoman (Shari Randolph) who considers herself a friend of the attorney and an enemy of his client, and even the TV reporter (Abigail Bryan) who has to walk a thin line between candor and diplomacy.


No one is a complete paragon or a complete parasite, although Iverson does take a few satirical jabs at the most public antagonists in the case--an ambitious State’s Attorney (Peter Goldsmith) and a black activist minister (Guy Anthony Margo). Iverson himself was a Chicago prosecutor for five years, so presumably he knows what he’s writing about.

He also appears to know what medium he’s writing for--and it doesn’t look as if it’s the stage. There isn’t much about the script to distinguish it from a screenplay or teleplay.

The well-cast actors seemed slightly under-rehearsed, even on the second weekend of the run. Although a few individual scenes crackle in Harry J. Lennix’s staging, the play isn’t as intense as one would expect. The effect is too close to that of a well-written TV movie, minus the production values.

In February, Lennix’s staging is expected to move to Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.

* “Unjustifiable Acts,” Powerhouse Theatre, 3116 2nd St., Santa Monica. Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends Oct. 15. $12-$15. (213) 466-1767. Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.