Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Philadelphia

Kill Move Paradise
Wilma Theater / 2018 Philadelphia Fringe Festival
Review by Rebecca Rendell | Season Schedule (updated)

Anthony Martinez-Briggs, Lindsay Smiling,
Avery Hannon, and Brandon Pierce

Photo by Johanna Austin/
The Wilma Theater begins its 2018-2019 season and makes an entry into the 2018 Philadelphia Fringe Festival with the Philadelphia premiere of Kill Move Paradise. Local playwright James Ijames uses the story of four very different men searching for understanding and redemption to address America's epidemic of racially motivated police brutality. Director Blanka Zizka and her remarkable cast fill the stage with relentless waves of movement and energy. Matt Saunders's set is transcendent. Thom Weaver's lighting designs are impeccable. The result is a work of urgent emotional and inspirational art.

Confused and disoriented Isa, Daz, Grif and Tiny find themselves trapped in an otherworldly white room. It does not take the strangers long to figure out what they have in common: they are men, they are black, and they are dead. Each a victim of the state-sanctioned violence that claims the lives of so many unarmed black men in the United States. Together they must recognize the truth about what has already happened and prepare themselves for what comes next. Kill Move Paradise contains elements of other surrealist dramas, purgatory plays, and political polemics, but James Ijames' highly original work is unlike anything you have seen before.

Under Blanka Zizka's innovative direction the basic narrative arc becomes a mere set-up for a series of powerful exchanges and bizarre interludes. With the musicality and excitement of a symphony, Brandon Pierce (Daz) delivers a monologue listing the things gathered just beyond the door of their uniquely black netherworld. The stage lights grow brighter and brighter and brighter with every name Lindsay Smiling (Isa) pronounces from his uncompromisingly long list of black men murdered by police. Anthony Martinez-Briggs (Grif) coyly assess the attractiveness of the audience, simultaneously inspiring raucous laughter and deep discomfort. Avery Hannon (Tiny) leads the entire ensemble in a cheerful doo-wop number about the tense encounters with law enforcement. For seventy fast-paced minutes the immensely talented ensemble takes us on a dizzying ride from joy, to disbelief, to anguish and back again.

Kill Move Paradise never feels preachy, but the play's message comes through loud and clear. Every death wrought by our racist system of law enforcement means the incomparable loss of a unique and valuable individual. By keeping the focus on these four souls, Zizka's production grapples honestly with a difficult issue while maintaining a tone that is frequently upbeat and even hopeful—a particularly impressive feat in these dark days. Even before I walked out of the theater I learned about 26-year-old Botham Shem Jean, shot dead by a uniformed officer while he sat watching television in his own apartment.

Kill Move Paradise, through September 23, 2018, at The Wilma Theater, 265 South Broad Street, Philadelphia PA. Part of the 2018 Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Tickets are available at the Wilma's box office or by visiting or calling (215) 546-7824. For more information on the Fringe Festival, visit

Lindsay Smiling: Isa
Anthony Martinez-Briggs: Grif
Avery Hannon: Tiny
Brandon Pierce: Daz

Director: Blanka Zizka
Set Designer: Matt Saunders
Lighting Designer: Thom Weaver
Costume Designer: LeVonne Lindsay
Original Music and Sound Designer: Justin Ellington
Movement Consultant: Silvana Cardell
Dramaturg: Walter Bilderback
Resident Stage Manager: Patreshettarlini Adams
Production Manager: Clayton Tejada