Controversial play 'Kill Move Paradise' provokes conversation about officer-involved shootings of unarmed black men, women

CHICAGO (WLS) -- People are talking about a controversial play currently being staged on the North Side.

The performance is based around the recent rash of officer-involved shootings of unarmed black men and women, and has been playing to sold-out houses and sparking intense dialogue, especially during this Black History Month.

It has been called "riveting" and "powerful," and is getting rave reviews for turning a mirror on a current controversy by asking a lot of questions and provoking a lot of conversations.

On the stage at Chicago's Timeline Theatre, there is an unusual production that is ripped from the headlines. It's called Kill Move Paradise, and it tells the story of men suddenly taken from their ordinary lives, not knowing if they are still alive or dead and find themselves trapped in a sort of cosmic waiting room.

"To get to the final part of paradise, they have to remember how they got here, and these are all people who are victims of police brutality," said the play's director Wardell Julius Clark.

The play borrows heavily from recent controversies involving much-publicized shootings of unarmed black men and women. It explores the lives of the characters beyond the violent moments which brought them all here.

"There's a lot of heightened and intense emotion in the play," Clark said. "You can see these black men very raw and vulnerable, and moments of huge spontaneous joy. It's the gamut that you don't often get in a normal play."

The play is so physical that the four actors have to utilize padding as they bounce off an otherworldly set while trying to figure it all out, and asking questions of themselves and society.

"There is a part in the play where we read the list of the names of people who've been recently killed at the hands of police brutality and it's a long list," said actor Charles Andrew Gardner, "and I think that if we as a society don't move now or soon, that list is just going to deep growing."

"We all have to come together and realize that either we're going to exist together or something else needs to happen because we're continuously being killed over and over again, unarmed people," said fellow actor Kai Ealy.

The aim, they say, is to provoke dialogue and to remember that all the recent unarmed victims were people, not just statistics.

"All of these characters I connect to and identify with, even down to our 14-year-old actor who plays a character based on Tamir Rice," Clark said. "I see myself in these men in a way that I don't often see myself in the American theatre."

The production is not for children due to the strong language and content. Following the production, there have been thought-provoking conversations between the people involved and audience members.

Kill Move Paradise is running through April 5 at the TimeLine Theatre at 615 W. Wellington Ave. in Lakeview.
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