‘Cops and Robbers’ dramatically dissects officer-involved shooting 

click to enlarge Jinho “The Piper” Ferreira tells the story of an Oakland shooting from various perspectives in his one-man show “Cops and Robbers” onstage at The Marsh in San Francisco. - COURTESY JIM DENNIS
  • Jinho “The Piper” Ferreira tells the story of an Oakland shooting from various perspectives in his one-man show “Cops and Robbers” onstage at The Marsh in San Francisco.
There couldn’t be a more timely show than “Cops and Robbers,” Jinho “The Piper” Ferreira’s contemporary, one-man exploration of an officer-involved shooting in Oakland.

Ferreira, an Oakland rapper, writer and Alameda County sheriff’s employee, gives a tour de force performance as more than a dozen characters in the drama, now onstage at The Marsh in The City after a successful run in Berkeley. (San Francisco Police Chief Greg Suhr apparently was in the audience opening night.)

Like the news stories and community debate on which it is based, “Cops and Robbers,” directed with finesse by Ami Zins and Lew Levinson, provides no easy answers as it reflects a violent, abusive, unjust world, and the myriad, conflicting, changing perceptions of that world.

The show begins a bit fuzzily, with Ferreira briefly portraying a slave in shackles. While, sadly, an appropriate metaphor for current times, it doesn’t necessarily add much to the meat of the piece, which really gets going with a report from a too enthusiastic TV newswoman (the show’s only flash of comedy) who has just a few facts about a crime scene in an auto plant: A cop has shot a suspect.

Was the victim armed? Was he holding up a black power first? What were the races of the men?

Details unfold over the next 90 minutes -- with updated news reports followed by reactions of interested parties and the public as the case ultimately goes to court – and the story’s tenor changes, provocatively.

Some of Ferreira’s characters come through loud and clear. The black preacher who says, “Atrocities have been committed in our communities for years” strongly contrasts to the conservative radio host, who, on the air, derides gangsters and the Black Panthers and tells his audience, “God bless that officer.”

Equally -- perhaps more powerful, but less clearly defined -- are various other cops, thugs and pimps Ferreira portrays, whose experiences dovetail and illuminate those of not just the suspect (a man named DeMariry McDaniels), but of the officer (Earl Washington), too.

Though fictional, McDaniels and Washington’s tale is sadly all too similar to stories making news in 2015.

Ferreira and his wife Dawn Williams Ferreira (who has written a book on the same issues) clearly are motivated to change those stories, and they are well on their way with this in-your-face dramatization. More than an evening at the theater, it’s a discussion of difficult issues clearly designed to prompt openness, honesty, and a world where justice isn’t uncommon.


Cops and Robbers

Where: Marsh, 1062 Valencia St., S.F.

When: 8 p.m. Fridays; closes May 22

Tickets: $20 to $100

Contact:: (415) 282-3055, www.themarsh.org

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Leslie Katz

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