Compelling “Rant”

rantSometimes the truth isn’t what it appears to be. The themes of police brutality, racial injustice and journalistic integrity run through The Rant, which is a compelling and effective drama featuring powerful performances and tight direction by Tyler Dobrowsky.

The play opens in darkness. There are gunshots. The lights come up and we see Denise Reeves (Kym Gomes) mourning the death of her son at the hands of the police. Her voice is filled with raw emotion as she describes the officers as bullies who do whatever they please. There is a journalist (Tony Estrella) who writes about the shooting, as well as an investigator named Lila (Nikki Massoud) who uses the grieving mother in her personal crusade against the police. But it turns out the story isn’t as cut and dried as it first appears. Lila questions a black police officer (Amos Hamrick) who was at the crime scene that fateful night.

Playwright Andrew Case worked for the New York City Police Department, where he investigated police misconduct. Case drew inspiration from real life to create The Rant, which showcases how one person’s idea of “truth” is subject to scrutiny by society, law enforcement and the news media.

Gomes is deeply moving as the mother, who is seeking validation for her son’s life. Estrella, who also serves as The Gamm’s artistic director, has a brilliant speech where he explains how people’s personal prejudices can shape their outlook on the accuser and the accused.

The shooting of unarmed black men by police officers has become all too common in our society. There have protests from activists who are frustrated by the harassment and brutality dished out to the African American community by law enforcement. At first, The Rant seems like it would be merely a rant (pardon the pun) against racist cops, but as the story progresses, it becomes something much deeper. Case asks us to take a deeper look at our own biases and our inevitable rush to jump to conclusions. The truth is more complicated than we give it credit for.

Is there a problem with the way police officers treat minorities? Absolutely. But we need to be mindful of all points of view. We need to listen to each other and find our deeper sense of humanity.

The Rant is one of the year’s best plays.

The Rant runs through December 13 at The Gamm Theatre, 172 Exchange Street, Pawtucket. Call 401-723-4266 or order online at gammtheatre.org.

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