The day the world changed was captured in Hit The Wall. But it was about more than the igniting spark of the famous Stonewall Riots on that sweltering night June 28, 1969; it was a moment of conscious awakening.
Hit The Wall is the new play brilliantly written by Ike Holter and directed by Eric Hoff. It genuinely moved me in its carefully focused nuances. I hadn’t expected it.
The Day The World Changed
With a full spectrum of characters, Hit The Wall effortlessly and smoothly presents a full spectrum of emotions; it was funny, sad, insightful, historical, and at times emotionally stimulating and poignantly paralyzing.
Presented in the round, in the small space of the Barrow Street Theater -- located in the Greenwich House --, there were rows of seating on all sides rising up row by row. The actors used the space well, which was ideal for this particular story -- you were almost in the show.
The entire cast delivered great performances. Nathan Lee Graham stands out as the strong yet cautious Carson. She is a transwoman with a quiet inner strength to be as she is, and at the same time fully aware of how she is perceived and despised by the general public. While she’ll stand her ground to challenge the gay boys on the block talking down to her -- much to their surprise --, she avoids mainstream confrontation at all costs with a simple yes ma’am, yes sir demeanor as she scurries off.
But that fateful night of Stonewall changes everything, and most everyone.
Our cast is comprised of two gay guys, one black and the other Hispanic, both loud, condescending -- and on the make for the A Gay, a well-dressed white yuppie who passes by them day after day after work; he ignores them, preferring blonde’s in the privacy of his apartment.
There’s the strong black hippie leading her women’s movement of one, WILD; Peg, the lesbian whose family has cast her out; the newbie virgin gay kid from the suburbs trying to belong, a draft-dodger who is unexpectedly awed by Carson (the transgirl), and the neighborhood cop and the uptown woman who are both offended by the existence of them all.
With the characters established, the journey begins. Like voyeurs we hitchhike along a witnesses to their experiences. They reveal the attributes of who they are, or want to be; the inner fears, protective walls, and ambitions that they all have, culminating at a place and time that will challenge them all.
They’re an estranged, diverse group of individuals that come together to face an oppressive society -- enforced by police brutality --, confronted with the choice to stand up or step back.
According to the play, it was the fearful Carson and quiet Peg that ignite it all. While people were being arrested and dragged from the club to the waiting cop wagons, Peg and Carson were hiding out in the rest room, contemplating changing clothes.
They were confronted by a cop: “What are you?” he demands to know. That is Carson's moment: “I’m ... INCREDIBLE!” she exclaims with pride. The cop proceeds to give Carson a beating. he then turns to Peg and proceeds to frisk him, brutaly groping and molesting.
Carson, emerging from the shadows of the corner where she lay bleeding, rises up to Peg's defence -- who is dressed in denim with short hair that so offends the cop’s sensibility.
Carson was rewarded with yet another beat down, this time combined with a barrage of denigrating and humiliating comments.
In an act of desperate defiance Peg grabs the cop’s gun and demands he stop beating Carson. When given the choice of leaving unharmed -- with Carson to be arrested and hauled off in the paddywagon --, Peg stays. Together with Carson they had become lambs with a roar.
Subdued by the cop, Peg suffers his wrath as he is beaten and dragged from the club screaming: “HELP US, NO MORE WATCHING! DO SOMETHING!” It was a battle cry that took hold.
Twice the lighting effects capture events in quite effective slow motion. First, it allows us to climb inside the emotions and explore the personal connections being discovered and formed between lesbian lovers, the draft-dodger and the transgirl -- she being quite overwhelmed, and the combination of romance and lust between the gay guys.
Later, it is again effective to pull us into the madness and violence that the riot ignited.
Gay, trans and lesbians with nothing in common except their embattled dignity, find strength and solidarity in one another to come together, armed with nothing more than a lifetime of humiliation and rage. They changed the world that night. We mustn’t ever forget.
While certain events of that night have always been hazy, the cast assures us “We were there!”
HIT THE WALL
Barrow Street Theater
27 Barrow Street
New York, NY 10014
Scott Morfee, Jean Doumanian, Tom Wirtshafter, Patrick Daly, Burnt Umber, Roger E. Kass, BarLor Productions, Starry Night Entertainment, Christian Chadd Taylor, SKandal Theatrical, Marc & Lisa Biales
Written by Ike Holter and Directed by Eric Hoff
Nick Bailey, Jessica Dickey, Ben Diskant, Nathan Lee Graham, Matthew Greer, Gregory Haney, Sean Allan Krill, Rania Salem Manganaro, Jonathan Mastro, Ray Rizzo, Carolyn Michelle Smith, Arturo Soria and Indigo Street.
“FIERCE AND FUNNY!”
- New York Times
“AN EXPLOSIVE EXTRAVAGANZA!”
- The Village Voice
“BRINGS STONEWALL TO VIVID LIFE! EVERYBODY MUST GET STONEWALLED!”
- New York Post