There are approximately 48 different characters in Anna Deavere Smith’s play, “Twilight: Los Angeles 1992,” currently at the Fleetwood-Jourdain Theatre. They are male, female, old, young, African American, Korean, Mexican and white, in positions of authority and regular citizens. They are self-conscious and self-righteous, angry and jubilant, reflective and philosophical. They include a controversial lawyer, a loving aunt, a thankful truck driver, an immigrant grocer, an erudite professor, a conscientious juror.
All of the characters are performed by a phenomenally versatile and talented cast of one: Jazzma Pryor.
Smith conducted hundreds of interviews in the aftermath of the 1991 police beating of Rodney King and the 1992 trial and subsequent acquittal of the four officers involved. Her script expertly weaves together people’s stories, allowing them to describe their perspectives in their own words.
Pryor brings this complex tapestry to life, adeptly transitioning from one character to the next with apparent ease. As she doffs a hat or dons a jacket, pushes a mop or sips a soda, her entire demeanor transforms. She inhabits each character so completely that the audience has no trouble recognizing her personae as a female Korean shopkeeper, a white male truck driver or a male African American lawyer.
While the transitions appear seamless now, it took a great deal of work to create each character with their own unique mannerisms, body language and accents.
FJT Artistic Director Tim Rhoze reached out to Pryor in 2020, when he first considered producing the show. Pryor said she was excited by the challenge but also relieved that the forced shutdown of the pandemic gave them extra time to prepare. The results of their preparation shows: Pryor’s performance under Rhoze’s direction is phenomenal.
FJT has extended the show’s run at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St., by one weekend. It now runs through Sunday, Oct. 3.
Each performance is limited to 50 patrons who must provide proof of vaccination, wear masks and sit in designated socially distanced seats in the theater. The Sunday, Oct. 3 performance is already sold out.