Social class breached

Water enters onto the stage in a sparkling gown. Cool as a cat, water dances with, hurts and threatens to swallow a handicapped man who splashes into a pool on stage.

Actress Nike Imoru does remarkable work personifying the cause behind the disaster in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit. Imoru tries to seduce a man–who resists her–paralleling the water that threatened to destroy New Orleans’ inhabitants.

Imoru raises awareness for the onslaught Hurricane Katrina tolled on the New Orleans area in August 2005, which killed more than 1,600 people and devastated around 200,000 homes on the Gulf Coast. "The Breach" is sure to make you think.

The play started in New Orleans and moved to Seattle Repertory Theatre on Jan. 10. It’s playing until Feb. 9.

"The Breach" was written by three playwrights who, after visiting New Orleans in August 2005, collaborated to write three fictional stories based on the lives of survivors they observed or interviewed. The playwrights, Joe Sutton, Catherine Filloux and Tarell McCraney, sought to capture those stories through the breaking of the levees.

The title "The Breach" refers to the rupture of the levees, or mounds designated to hold back water. One of the three stories in "The Breach" centers on the accusations towards the government made by the poor–accusations of allowing the water to break the levees on purpose–so that the wealthy would be spared damage while the poor would suffer.

Sutton said he remembered being appalled at the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. Although the idea for writing the play came to mind, he thought he would need some help. Filloux said she was used to covering trauma and agreed to accompany Sutton on the task of raising awareness. McCraney, a student of their initial third playwright, joined the team after the playwright cancelled due to other projects.

Sutton said he was determined to explore in his story the seemingly far-fetched accusations made by the poor that the government bombed the levees, instead of a natural disaster breaking them. The sections where the poor bitterly discussed their ideas for the reasons behind the disaster were not entertaining. Rather, they felt more like a research room, or in a classroom, being lectured about the causes of the extent of damage.

The emotion that the actors put into their performance made the audience feel as if they were attached to the disaster. Hubert Point-Du Jour evokes reactive emotion, yelling at his grandpa, showing deep concern for his sister, who, at such a young age, was experiencing incredible devastation. Audience members hear trickling water as rain falls on stage. A lady stands near a rooftop, recalling that scene. She remembers herself as "that little gal," joint with her two family members, breathing, crawling and listening to the rain, before she is abandoned by her family as they are taken by the flood.

The audience is involved as a character in the show too, witnessing disaster overcome New Orleans. "The Breach" brings to light the lack of national unity among different socio-economic classes when a hurricane hits.

McCraney said, "’The Breach,’ I hope, will allow us as an audience to continue to think, meditate, pray and ponder the tragedy, the man-made dissonance during, after and before Katrina on a national level and not just a local one."

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Title: Social class breached | Author: Emily Slater | Section: Features | Published Date: 2008-01-30 | Internal ID: 6250