Sad, angry, confused — those were the emotions coursing through my veins at the conclusion of “Flint.” It wasn’t because I hated the show, rather the show itself was so powerful it made me feel more emotion than anything I’ve seen in a long time.
On my drive home, I was torn between curling up with a gallon of ice cream while venting to my cats about how there is still racial tension in our society and hijacking the nearest broadcast station, getting on my soapbox and telling everyone to get their heads on straight and see people as people, not for color.
I don’t live in a bubble. I know all too well that hatred and bigotry still run rampant in our society, so it shouldn’t have come as such a shock that a play set in 2014 addressed this issue. I grew up in a diverse neighborhood, lucky enough to be raised not to see color, so perhaps that’s why this show, so intimate and impactful, shook me. “Flint” made me feel as if I was a part of it, as though I was a character in crisis myself.
This was the atmosphere writer Jeff Daniels strived to create for his show and he hit the nail on the head.
“In our intimate 168-seat Purple Rose Theatre, ‘Flint’ will bring you up close and personal with the play’s four characters,” says Daniels. “I want you in the room with them. I want you to feel what they’re feeling. The play also asks a bigger question: Tragic as it is for all those involved, is what happened in Flint about more than the water?”
Upon walking into the theatre, I was transported into the story. The set, a small kitchen with worn cupboards and old-school appliances, immediately sent me to a poverty-stricken, down-on-its-luck town. Black and white pictures were hung above, depicting the community in a former time of prosperity.
I thoroughly enjoyed the performances by Lynch R. Travis (Mitchell) and Casaundra Freeman (Olivia). Freeman portrayed her character in a real, down-to-Earth way, making Olivia very relatable. Her bits of humor were much needed and appreciated throughout the show to break from the dark ambiance.
I hung on to every word Travis said. His performance was so genuine and his character so bright and kind. Mitchell is the guy we all want to believe in and Travis kept me immersed in the show and rooting for his character, his family and a better tomorrow.
Rhiannon Ragland’s character, Karen, was my least favorite at the start of the show. I couldn’t stand her irritated, sarcastic, passive-aggressive personality. However, by the end of the show, she’d won a place in my heart. Ragland couldn’t have done a better job playing the role of a bitter wife in need of a husband who cared and, as the show progressed, the audience could empathize with her. Her acting was brilliant.
David Bendena (Eddie) transitioned with ease between the spectrum of emotions and moods he was asked to portray. Eddie started the show as a seemingly happy-go-lucky man, unfazed by his impoverished situation. As the drinks went down and the show went on, his true colors came out and Bendena’s ability to move onto disappointment, anger and hatred was phenomenal.
“Flint” portrays two couples, one white and one black, reacting to the water crisis and poverty. Despite being in similar situations, the two handle things quite differently — one with hope and love and the other with anger looking to pass blame.
Daniels perfectly scripted captivating characters, told a significant story and highlighted some downplayed but actually very prevalent issues in society today.
This is an important show. It’s one people need to see. You’ll leave with a greater understanding of today’s racial issues and with hope and inspiration to change them.
This show is for adults. “Flint” uses strong language, including the “N” word, contains multiple drug and alcohol references and displays scenes of domestic violence.