“Why did he run?”
How many times have we heard that question asked after an officer-involved shooting left an unarmed person dead and shot in the back?
Blue, is an exquisitely written play June Carryl and directed by Michael Matthews which takes the audience inside the internal affairs interview between an officer accused of killing an unarmed black man.
LAPD Detective LaRhonda Parker is assigned to investigate the shooting death of a Black motorist during a traffic stop. The officer in question is Boyd Sully, a family friend and her husband’s ex-partner. In the gathering of facts, where does the truth lie?
“I wrote this play as part of a conversation,” says Carryl. “A fundamental hypocrisy lies at the heart of the founding of this country that prioritizes white (straight cis male) bodies over black and brown bodies, and a direct line can be drawn from the authoritarian impulse to the present state of policing as practiced in the United States.”
The play is so well written you would think Carryl was a member of law enforcement.
“I watch a lot of cop-inspired tv shows,” said Carryl as she stood in the vestibule of the Matrix Theatre after receiving an arousing applause from the audience.
Sgt. Sully (John Colella) is interrogated by Detective Parker (Julanne Chidi Hill) about the events that led to the death of 33-year-old David Mason, a black man stopped by Sully for driving with an expired tag on a residential street in L.A.’s trendy Beachwood Canyon. He alleges the scent of marijuana caught his attention and the feeling Mason “didn’t belong” in the affluent area caused him to follow him…ultimatelty leading to his being shot in the back of his neck and crashing into a nearby tree.
As Sully is questioned his story continues to change with the only conclusion Parker can come up with is he wasn’t merely following Mason he was hunting him.
Parker reiterates the interview is crucial to determining whether the investigation will be closed or turned over for prosecution.
Sully is surprised when Parker wants to connect his (bias) racism to his attending the Jan. 6 sedition at the U.S. Capitol and his fear of “being replaced”. Sully is also under extreme financial pressure being on his third marriage over the course of his 29-year career with the department. This isn’t Sully’s only shooting, along with multiple complaints he’s received from black residents of his heavy-handed use of force on them, that his bias towards black people becomes more clear.
“Why do they run?” Sully continues to ask.
Sully attempts to deflect from the gravity of his actions as he pulls at Parker’s heartstrings as he was her husband’s partner who retired after a shooting left a teen dead.
Faced with her own fears of coming to terms why her husband retired early, remembering her father was on the force, Sully continues to impress upon her to “back the blue” even if it means compromising their ethics and oath.
Will Parker “back the blue” and clear Sully?
By the end of the play, Parker is in tears as she finally summons the courage to answer him.
“They run because of cops like YOU!”
I really enjoyed this play because the setting was unique as we were immersed in the interrogation which broke down the 4th wall of a police shooting not seen by the public. The IA investigation that typically clears the officer of any wrongdoing.
The actors were magnificent in drawing out their characters and emotions from the audience. Carryl did an amazing job of putting this together and I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Carryl shared the play will head to Scotland after its run at the Matrix with Hill on board. The Henry Murray Space was ideal for this body of work as it was transferred into a realistic police station down to the photos on the wall and crumpled papers on the floor.
Blue is produced by Guillermo Cinefuegos, Sara Fenton, Kila Kitu, Mildred Marie Langford, Tarina Pouncy, and Betsy Zajko. Rich Wong is stage managers. Judith Borne is publicist. LaRhonda Parker understudies the role of Parker.
Blue is playing at The Henry Murray Space, Rogue Machine at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046. Street parking is available.
Blue is playing through May 14. Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:30 p.m. Sundays at 3:00 p.m.
Purchase tickets at www.roguemachinetheatre.com $30 (Students & Seniors $20).
Pay-What -You-Can: Apr 14 ($10+), Apr 21 ($15+), May 5, 12 ($20+)
Emilie St. John is a contributing writer for 2UrbanGirls.com and the Los Angeles Wave newspaper.