ANN ARBOR - "Resisting" is easily one of the toughest plays to watch because of how real and compelling the story is. From its opening moments, which illustrate just how bad things can get for an innocent African American woman pretending to film police beating an unarmed person, you realize that this play pulls no punches, unafraid to show things as they truly are.
Written by David Wells and directed by Billicia Charnelle Hines, "Resisting" tells the story of Tamika (played with such conviction by Tayler Jones), a single mother working part-time as an accountant who's arrested in the play's opening scene for holding her phone up at the wrong time. The list of charges is extensive and beyond ridiculous, but as the the story unfolds and Tamika talks with different people in her life, including her father, you realize that this is a reality that far too many face. When Tamika is urged to take a plea deal and refuses, the potential consequences of taking her case to trial begin to set in.
In addition to Jones, who is the only actor to play one role, the play stars Patrick O'Lear, Will Bryson and Annie Dilworth. One of O'Lear's roles is Officer O'Shea, who arrests Tamika in the first few moments of the play and is so committed in his performance that it feels as though we're witnessing a real arrest. Dilworth primarily plays the role of Lindsey, Tamika's court-appointed attorney, who claims to understand Tamika's plight but in many ways never truly can. While each of the actors give amazing performances, Bryson manages to disappear into each character he plays. As Tamika's father, he's angry and concerned with what happened to his daughter; as her boss, he's more concerned with his company's reputation; as Officer Simmons, he disagrees with his partner's actions but stands behind the rule book. Each character he plays is wonderfully nuanced, making the world that the story creates that much more believable, to the point where, again, it feels more like a documentary.
Throughout the story's many scenes of various characters asking Tamika exactly what transpired, the phrase she keeps repeating is "I did nothing wrong." Sometimes it's said in anger, other times in defeat. By the end of the play we're exhausted on behalf of Tamika because it's as if there will be no light at the end of the tunnel. Her words fall on deaf ears all around and we watch as she loses faith in the justice system and in some instances, the people around her, including Lindsey. Still, the closing scene of the play offers some hope, albeit with a fair amount of sadness and frustration about the way things are.
Jones plays all these scenes perfectly, making us that much more invested in her story. It is not an easy play to watch, as it illustrates just how bad things are and how much work still needs to be done when it comes to the justice system, police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement. Despite the fact that it can difficult to watch at times, it is nonetheless an important play that everyone should seek out. It is stories like Tamika's that happen every day throughout our country. Change is never easy, but spreading awareness in a variety of ways, including the arts, is paramount. "Resisting" should not be missed, nor should its unapologetic look at violence and an unjust system be ignored.
"Resisting" runs through Nov. 19 at Theatre Nova in Ann Arbor. More information is available here.
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