Developed by: Brian Copeland and David Ford
Featuring: Brian Copeland
Directed by: David Ford
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 5 p.m. Saturdays; February 1 through March 1, 2014; extended through April 18, 2014
Where: The Marsh Theatre, 1062 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Tickets: $15-$35; Visit www.themarsh.org
and of privilege and exclusion
Otto Von Bismark was quoted as saying, "Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made."
In Brian Copeland’s one man play "The Scion," the main character, a sausage maker himself, takes this idea one step further. What if, while making sausage, you feel you are above the law and that no one needs to watch you make it?
Using voice, vignettes, anecdotes, and character acting, Copeland demonstrates a mastery of thespian craft by carefully telling the true and tragic story of Stuart Alexander, owner of the Santos Linguisa Factory in San Leandro, until Stuart murdered three USDA inspectors in cold blood after they insisted on inspecting his factory.
The play is very intimate, and the audience is invited to exercise imagination as Copeland begins by describing an encounter with the San Leandro Police. Sitting in the passenger seat while his blonde girlfriend drove the car, they were pulled over by the San Leandro Police Department. At once the cop wanted to see Copeland’s ID, despite the fact he was not driving.
It is a fine opening for a story that deals with rules, privilege, and perception. Copeland goes on to describe life in San Leandro, growing up, always being a suspect.
In contrast to his own experience is that of Stuart Alexander, heir to the Santos Linguisa Factory. Stuart lived a troubled life that saw his father bailing him out time and again. Everyone, it seemed, from the priest to police, gave Stuart the benefit of the doubt. It did not take long before Stuart believed that he lived exempt from the rules that governed everyone else.
At this point, the play accelerates and Copeland takes the audience on a dramatic up-and-down journey replete with humor and tragedy. It must be kept in mind that this is a true story. Copeland refuses to let you forget that, while simultaneously bringing an element of dramatic tension that keeps the audience on the edge of their seats.
Drama is not the result of conveying information, but of cultivating deeper questions among the audience. Using a very informal style, Copeland leaves us grasping for answers until he returns to questions he raises with a devastating effect.
One of the deeper questions was the question of whether Stuart Alexander was a victim in all of this, because of the many times he received the benefit of the doubt. In fact, Alexander was raised to be above the law. This unanswered question is brought home after the performance.
Each vignette managed to reveal another element of the plot. There were four USDA inspectors that visited the Santos Linguisa Factory that fateful day. Three were killed, and one survived. Copeland takes on this survivor’s character in a way that conveyed the emotional toll. The recollections that this man had were in etched into our minds by the way Copeland entered the character.
Directed by David Ford, Copeland used the entire stage, manipulated the lights, and used 911 and court transcripts and created an unforgettable atmosphere. His performance brought to mind his one-man show, "The Jewelry Box," by using San Leandro, his home town, as a source of inspiration.
The conclusion of "The Scion" brought together themes of rules and white privilege. But just when it appears he is finished, Copeland takes the privilege net, and casts it wider to include the economic perks enjoyed by those who can afford it. It’s a one man play that is as humorous as it is tragic, and Brian wears both masks perfectly. It is amazing how he is able to provoke a smile, while speaking on the most painful subjects.