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June 9, 2017:

In the Valley of the Shadow reviewed by Rob Stevens


In June, 2016 a gunman killed 49 people and wounded 58 others in a hate crime at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It was both the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter and the deadliest incident of violence against LGBT people in United States history. Katherine Cortez has written In the Valley of the Shadow which Rogue Machine Theatre is presenting as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, that addresses that event. It’s a stunning piece of theatre under Elina de Santos’s deft and incisive direction. The talented cast of six vibrantly brings to life many characters—victims, survivors, relatives, police as well as the shooter. Cortez shows them in joyous moments before the tragic event as well as the aftermath when the characters deal with the unbearable grief of having survived but realizing loved ones have not. Rafi (Dylan Arnold) is a young man coming to grips with accepting his newfound homosexuality in the blush of first love with the outgoing Enrique (Ethan Rains, who also plays the conflicted shooter Uriel). Rafi is the main character, first seen in his blood splattered T-shirt in the waiting room of the local police station. Carmen (Tania Verafield, also appearing as lesbian bartender Hawk) is another survivor, also with blood splattered clothing and missing a shoe. But she’s in shock and only knows her saintly 18 year old cousin was gunned down before her eyes. Transgender Ms. Francis (Larry Poindexter who also plays the sympathetic policeman Jack) is another survivor, one with some bite to her wit. In flashbacks we see these survivors interacting with other bar patrons who did not survivor the gunman’s fury. Karen (Karen Malina White, pulling double duty as no-nonsense police officer Marge) was the den mother to her gay children. Bette (Rachel Sorsa) shows up as Rafi’s uber religious mother who has her eyes opened, not just by her son, but by Francis. There is not a wasted moment in the crisp 75 minute script. It is sure to be one of the highlights of the 2017 Fringe Festival.



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