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Review: Mike Wiley’s Brand of Storytelling Transcends the Virtual Realm

The significance of watching Mike Wiley’s Breach of Peace on the heels of the historic events that have transpired over the past year is telling. But the real achievement of this Raleigh Little Theatre presentation, is the fact that although it is virtual, it feels more like a pre-COVID live performance than similar post-COVID theatrical live-streams.

Breach of Peace is a solo adaptation of Wiley’s play The Parchman Hour, which was originally produced by the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University and the Department of Dramatic Art at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It recounts the journey of the Freedom Riders from Washington DC to Jackson, Mississippi, wherein over 300 nonviolent activists were ultimately arrested and convicted of breach of peace.

Wiley is performing the production live on the stage of The Clayton Center. A production team of meticulous sound, lighting, and camera operators capture every detail of this multimedia experience. Effective camera angles and smooth transitions render some interesting visuals and silhouettes. And there is an immediacy that propels the audience out of their home environment (if only for 80 minutes) and right onto the bus with Wiley.  The hook here, however, is that not only can the audience see and hear Wiley, but he can also see and interact with them via Zoom. And it is this give and take between audience and performer that serves as a stunning reminder of what in fact distinguishes live theater from film.

The physicality of Wiley’s performance as he embodies a multitude of characters, white, Black, Jewish, Christian, male, and female is striking. Moreover, there is an intimacy to Wiley’s brand of storytelling that transcends the virtual realm.

This production of Breach of Peace is not without a few technical hiccups, namely the ringing of a doorbell when late audience members enter the Zoom room and the occasional echo of an unmuted mic. However, it is easy to forgive a few minor distractions and focus on Wiley’s performance and the relevancy of this story, particularly when the production values are this strong and the semblance to something “live” is this recognizable.  

The Raleigh Little Theatre production of Breach of Peace closed January 23rd. However, PlayMakers Repertory Company will stream a recording of Wiley’s Blood Done Sign My Name, which also included a Zoom audience, beginning January 25 and running through February 7. For more information visit https://playmakersrep.org/show/blood-done-sign-name/.

On January 29th, Raleigh Little Theatre is joining with 7-Stories to present In Hindsight, 2020 – two evenings of community stories about the unprecedented year of 2020. For more information on this free virtual event, visit https://raleighlittletheatre.org/events/in-hindsight-2020/.

Be sure to watch Lauren Van Hemert’s Live Chat with Mike Wiley and check out the RDU on Stage Calendar Page for upcoming theatrical events and productions.

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