Jason Mendez Exposes America’s Self-Harm
by Hamilton Nguyen
Jason Mendez’s forward-looking super-hero story “Supremacy” examines America’s dark, open secret—racism. When an incompetent policeman shoots an unarmed Black teenager six times, the high school student suddenly discovers his super-powers. Now, he must wrestle with what it means to hold “Supremacy.”
After the Officer (convincing Kyle Goldman) shoots young, African American Connor (passionate Geoffrey Malveaux), we feel angry and frightened because we could be them. In the USA, we easily become either victims or oppressors.
Sound Designer Ryan Lee Short plays rapid fire, deafening news reports. We hear loud, simultaneous stories about KKK marches, Black Lives Matter protests, and corrupt elections. They all intertwine creating mass distortion.
Scenic Artist Marykerin Naughton splatters colorful, cryptic graffiti on weathered wooden walls. Even though we don’t understand the graffiti, we know these are the defiant signs of the silenced and neglected.
Connor’s resilient father, Anthony (sensitive Scott Van de Mark), stoically cares for Connor. His wise dad teaches Connor how to defend himself physically and mentally. The pair spar in a twisting tornado of bobs and weaves; father and son display their boxing expertise convincingly.
When his father is killed in a random mall shooting, Connor’s anger turns into resentment and irreconcilable guilt.
Fellow high school student Jamal (impressive Gary Hughes) attacks Connor in the hallways. In an escalating, chest pounding confrontation filled with “yo daddy sucks,” Jamal breaks his hand against Connor’s temple. With one punch, Jamal shatters the toxic idea of African American masculinity. I am reminded of the constant bullying that still goes on in East Bay schools.
In a shadowy conversation, Connor’s ferocious mother Maggie (assertive Valerie Façhman) offends the Assistant Principal (persuasive Alexia Staniotes). “Supremacy” reminds us of America’s school to prison pipeline that wears down caring teachers, like the A.P.
Connor’s care-free girlfriend Alex (confident Wera Von Wulfen) fails to understand Connor’s daily struggle as an African American. She wants to support Connor, but in her own selfish ways. She refuses to discuss politics and social injustice. “White guilt” clouds her judgement.
After a shocking encounter, “Supremacy” leaves us in a cathartic state, wondering if this vengeful cycle will ever be broken. “Supremacy” challenges all of us to control our inner biases. We cannot let fear rule us. We need to be courageous, to become super human like Connor.
Photos by Jay Yamada
“Supremacy” by Jason Mendez, directed by Amanda Ortmayer, by Exit Theatre, San Francisco, through Saturday, May 18, 2019. Info: theexit.org
Cast: Valerie Façhman, Kyle Goldman, Gary Hughes, Geoffrey Malveaux, Alexia Staniotes, Scott Van de Mark, and Wera Von Wulfen.