San Francisco Fringe 2017
“A one-woman show loosely based on the in-custody murder of Natasha McKenna in the Fairfax County Jail in February, 2015”
Tasha is a fifty-minute one woman show loosely based on fact, and what happened to Natasha McKenna before and during her arrest and time at the the Fairfax County Jail in February of 2015. The sparse set comprises two monitors on the back wall, a white chair and a long white table. Starting with video clips showing on the monitors, we see a prison officer who says they will offer treatment for mental illness. Next, Cat Brooks from the Lower Bottom Playaz, Oakland, CA who also wrote the show is in front of us, except she plays Tasha. Brooks is barefoot dressed in black leggings, and embodies a simmering anger.
Additional video news clips inform us of the facts that Natasha was tased by deputies with fatal results. “When should this stop?” Brooks transitions into other characters to continue this story. First she enacts Tasha’s mother talking about how she tried to help her daughter and her behavior. Next she becomes Tasha herself at fifteen years of age, she has mental issues and she’s afraid “they’re” coming to get her. Gentle music plays in the background, as she speaks which adds to the poignancy of this situation.
Whether you have heard about this case or not, the series of events is put forth by Brooks through her careful crafting, the several selected video clips that document the deeds of the deputies, her narration and well defined characterizations. Brooks is an outstanding actor and writer who gives a sensitive, authentic and rooted performance. She switches between characters effortlessly with different emotions, dialogue and narrating interchangeably. Brooks is particularly solid and visceral when describing how Tasha’s mother asks how this happened “to her baby”.
Brooks enacts the moment when Tasha is handcuffed, it is heart wrenching for this to happen to someone with Tasha’s disorder and of course the consequences of this endgame are never going to be enough. However, video shows a brief clip of a female sherif at a news conference in an attempt to show another side of this story. It seems too little, too late, although if more was done or said in this vein, by the officers, it could be a helpful addition to the play, and add even more depth and layers. Another character played by Brooks, a nurse, talks about the force used on this inmate. It is a haunting moment.
This is a hard hitting show, it’s vividly told by Brooks who takes on all aspects of the characters physically and vocally. What is impressive is how she has a range of mood and emotions throughout the show as she narrates and plays all the characters switching from calmness, to disbelief, outright anger and desperation. The mother is warm and calm in some of her moments, which provide a needed respite from the intensity of her angst later.
Brooks boldly let’s the facts speak for themselves and the audience lives through them with her – and doubtless will spend time after the show ruminating on what is seen and heard onstage.
You can not help but be moved – and shocked – by these events. Brooks takes this complex story and makes it very clear and powerful. After the resounding ovation by the audience at the performance I attended, Brooks held a short talk back to hear comments and answer questions. This is a must see show – theatre is very powerful!