Review: Stonewall remembered in ‘Hit the Wall,’ with a resonance for today
“No more watching.”
It’s Greenwich Village, circa 1969, and in the sweltering early hours of June 28 on Christopher Street, a Stonewall Inn police raid doesn’t go as usual, changing the course of history.
Steel yourselves for “Hit the Wall” at the Davidson/Valentini Theatre at the Los Angeles LGBT Center. In its West Coast premiere, Ike Holter’s kaleidoscopic study of what led to the riots that launched the gay liberation movement receives a stunning immersive production, courtesy of director Ken Sawyer, a shrewd design team and a selfless cast.
After a prologue, “Wall” unfolds in scabrously poetic, honest, linear manner, its fictional archetypes intersecting in hilarious and disturbing ways.
Meet defiant black transvestite Carson (Matthew Hancock), in mourning for Judy Garland, and sexually ambiguous draft-dodger Cliff (Adam Silver). Radical activist Roberta (Shoniqua Shandai) and butch Peg (Charlotte Gulezian) dance around each other. Stoop-dwelling cronies Tano (Roland Ruiz) and Mika (Blake Young-Fountain) read everyone who comes along.
Completing the roster are suitcase-toting Newbie (Jason Caceres), predatory A-Gay (Burt Grinstead), disapproving uptowner Madeline (Kristina Johnson) and bigoted, threatening Cop (Donnie Smith), plus three omnipresent police (Maggie Marx, Dan Middleditch and Jess Weaver).
Their commitment to Holter’s script, Anna Waronker and Charlotte Caffey’s music, Yusuf Nasir’s choreography and Edgar Landa’s fight choreography is absolute. The technical aspects are imposing, with Desma Murphy’s set pieces, Matt Richter’s lighting, E.B. Brooks’ costumes and Sawyer’s sound fusing into a seamless whole.
Yet what’s most indelible is “Wall’s” current-day relevance, given the rise in transgender murders, teen suicides and backlash to the Supreme Court same-sex marriage ruling. It’s both an electrifying look back and a trenchant plea for continued progress, and not only to the LGBT community. Don’t miss it.
“Hit the Wall,” Davidson/Valentini Theatre, Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N. McCadden Place, Hollywood. 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7 p.m. Sundays. Ends Oct. 25. Mature audiences. $30. (323) 860-7300 or www.lalgbtcenter.org. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
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