For Hamilton Fringe Festival 2021, Afterlife Theatre presents their topical piece of verbatim theatre, It’s a Beautiful Day for Brunch and to Arrest the Cops That Killed Breonna Taylor. From the Twitter feeds, Instagram posts, and the abundant comment threads that blew up in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, performers Roselyne Dougé-Charles, Carly Anna Billings, Liz Whitbread, and Patrick Teed have crafted a cringe comedy that takes aim at performative ally-ship.
It opens with a very artsy montage of media sound bites sensationalizing George Floyd’s murder juxtaposed with static shots of out-dated television sets in bizarre locations—empty fields, atop rusting machinery. They feel useless, discarded—a deliberate statement, perhaps hinting at the use of social media technology as a virtue signalling prop rather than a tool for concrete activism.
I applaud the creators’ no-holds-barred skewering of the empty, pandering scramble by social media influencers and corporations to brand themselves as woke. And there are times when the central joke is very well-executed. The vain Instagrammer with her black tile post and self-indulgent rambling is a highlight. Her obnoxious self-awareness and feigned white guilt becomes glorious cringe as she reaches an absurd fever pitch, complete with an epic score!
Sometimes, though, a sequence will get muddled with overt sarcasm, pulling the joke back from that precarious, challenging edge. This satirical concept works best when the delivery is ambiguous, when you’re not quite sure how to engage with it—as parody or earnest sentiment. And, though it is quite consistently funny, there are a few segments that drag on for too long. This has a runtime of 30 minutes that could be tightened to about half that and be more consistently engaging throughout.
The uncomfortably long title seems like a gimmick, but there’s a lot to unpack. It captures that obnoxiously trendy, urban-lifestyle-performance aspect of social media activism, the rambling self-indulgence, and blends it with a call to action that is part ingenuous, part mocking. And it perfectly suits the material which tends to be clever with a capital C.
That finale, though, is stunning. A sharp, assertive call-out of performative ally-ship as self-care and social currency, the appalling meme-ification of an atrocity, ending with some very good advice for useful research and concrete action. It’s a Beautiful Day for Brunch and to Arrest the Cops That Killed Breonna Taylor could use more polish, but it definitely hits the mark more often than it misses.