Review | ‘Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992’ at the Rubicon in Ventura

Chris Butler Shines in Anna Deavere Smith’s Masterpiece

Chris Butler stars in ‘Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992.’ | Credit: Loren Haar / @LorePhotographyVentura

Anna Deavere Smith has created a career’s worth of innovative journalistic theater works, all excellent, none more so than Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992. In this new production at the Rubicon, actor/director Chris Butler takes on the monumental task of filling Smith’s shoes by playing every one of the show’s more than three dozen characters. Seeing Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992, on April 29, 2022, the exact day of the 30th anniversary of the events it anatomizes from so many perspectives, was particularly poignant. To create a more meaningful experience, the Rubicon invited many prominent leaders in the community for a special opening-night tribute, and the result was captivating. One felt the intention of the original work renewed as the audience brought their memories of these events to the current moment. 

Butler moved seamlessly from one character to another under his own and Jenny Sullivan’s expert co-direction. With just a handful of props and a few simple costume changes, most of them done in full view of the audience, Butler morphed from opera singer Jessye Norman to a former security guard and co-assailant of Reginald Denny, Keith Watson, and beyond. With great skill and empathy, he navigated the wildly divergent tones and emotions displayed while never losing the show’s elusive narrative thread. 

In a play with this many characters, it’s easy to imagine that there would be a leveling off and blending of all those different voices and experiences. Thanks to Smith’s work on the script and Butler’s dynamic performance, nothing could be further from the truth. Butler renders two of the show’s most influential figures — Elvira Evers and Maria the juror — with indelible force. Congratulations to everyone involved in this thought-provoking and timely production. 

Credit: Loren Haar / @LorePhotographyVentura

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