Roger Guenveur Smith brings his his iconic style to bear upon the L.A. Riots and their impact in his new piece, RODNEY KING. Guenveur Smith is a percussive performer. He plays softly on a sparse, beautifully lit set drowning in the massive Bootleg stage and addresses the audience bereft of artifice, sans a lone microphone.
RODNEY KING pushes its audience to recall its own experiences during the calamitous riots following the acquittals of LAPD officers in their Ventura county proceedings.
RODNEY KING reminds us that Rodney King was somewhat of a fiction, a false celebrity brought into the limelight because his beating just happened to be caught on tape. Guenveur Smith takes the time to thoughtfully offer glimpses into Glen, the man caught up in a whirlwind of the rise of modern celebrity fetishism, reality television, and technological advances that create videographers out of the passersby and neighbors, placing powerful cameras into first, our hands, and now, our phones.
Roger Guenveur Smith urges us to understand that Glen, Rodney King, has and will continue to be an emblem of the innocents who died in the Riots. King struggled with the burdens thrown upon him, and knew that Glen, the man who loved to fish, the man who lost his father, the man who struggled with his own fears and demons, was already lost. Rodney King, the creation of the media, the corrections and judicial systems, lived only to keep others from suffering the same cruel hand of fate that was dealt to Glen.
In one of two scripted moments of the show, Roger Guenveur Smith as King expresses himself eloquently in his improvised remarks to the angry and misused. He breathes life to King’s attempt to calm Los Angeles and quell the riots. In his desperation for it to end, it is possible to hear the sorrow of the senseless loss of life and wanton destruction done ‘in his name.’
RODNEY KING is a sober, beautiful, excruciatingly morose and sad affair that could only have been written and performed after the last of the L.A. Riots’ victims found peace.
Rest in peace Glen Rodney King.