Review of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 by Anna Deavere Smith (1994)
Twilight: LA, written and performed by Anna Deavere Smith, is a powerful one-woman play centered on the infamous LA riots in the early Nineties. Smith’s play gives voice to all sides of the riots, paying heed to the complexity of “political” rioting. The play is nonfiction, built on interviews from gang members, police officers, community organizers and victims of the violence. It is written as a transcript of these interviews, with line breaks to indicate the cadence of the speaker, giving it a poetry-like delivery. While some may find this format jarring, or even annoying, I found it compelling. It helped draw me into the characters — I could hear them speaking in their own voices. Not only that, it authenticated Smith’s interpretation of these real people. In a piece so heavily focused on racial tension, using stereotypes to characterize the speakers would have invalidated the message. It is a comfort, as well as a necessity, to know these people are being portrayed exactly as they are.