Copeland jokes that he himself, a black man, “came out of the womb a suspect,” regularly a victim of racial profiling, like just about every other black man in this country.
The true story that forms the core of “The Scion” illustrates just how unequal justice can be when it comes to the power of money and prestige — and where that can lead.
In 2000, the scion of the title, Stuart Alexander — owner of the family business, the Santos Linguisa Factory in San Leandro (where Copeland grew up) — shot and killed three U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors who had come a-calling, and chased down a fourth, trying to kill him, too.
Alexander believed he should not have to comply with USDA regulations, that the inspectors were hassling him unfairly, and that a judge and jury would surely see his point of view.
The murders shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone who knew him, says Copeland. A rich kid from a prominent and longtime local family, Alexander had bullied his way through life up to that point. Dangerously violent, he was nevertheless exempt from repercussions because, avers Copeland, of his family’s stature.
The Alexanders apparently considered themselves — and were considered by others — to be above the law.
Copeland, always an appealing performer, narrates with his usual self-effacing humor and warmth, extrapolating to make wry and cogent comments on the Trayvon Martin killing, on media tropes such as the pretty missing white girl syndrome (who is writing about the missing black girl, or the ugly girl?) and more.
He wonders if our society will ever stop extending privilege to the rich and the famous.
“I want rules that at least attempt to level the playing field,” Copeland says.
Along the way he skillfully transforms himself into various locals whom he interviewed about the case. Some had known Alexander all his life and had grisly tales to tell.
Copeland changed most names, although not Alexander’s secretary, the lyrically monikered Brooke Silverglide, who testified that she suggested that Alexander fire “warning shots” at the inspectors. Alexander kept a drawer full of guns.
With the insightful David Ford at the helm, “The Scion” is another winner for Copeland.
Alexander, who was convicted of murder, died on death row in San Quentin State Prison in 2005.
Where: Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 5 p.m. Saturdays, closes March 1
Tickets: $15 to $35
Contact: (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org