The play “Brutal Imagination” is about a white woman, Susan Smith, who creates a fake identity, Mr. Zero, to blame for the abduction of her two sons after she intentionally pushes her car into the lake with her sons in it, killing them. Although Mr. Zero only exists in Susan’s imagination, the play is a duet between Susan and Mr. Zero where they take us from the scene of the crime through the following nine days where the investigation and the search for Mr. Zero took place.
In the beginning, Mr. Zero states,
“How I Got Born
Though it’s common belief
That Susan Smith willed me alive
At the moment
Her babies sank into the lake…”
Susan tells the police that a black man made her pull over on the highway and get out of her car. He then sped off with her two kids in the back seat after saying that he would keep the kids safe. She describes a typical black man for the police to create a composite sketch from, and then make copies of, to place around the town. Every black person seemed to fit the description.
Throughout the play, Mr. Zero tries to get Susan to confess that she was responsible for the disappearance of the kids. Despite Mr. Zero’s wishes, she continues to desperately hold onto the fake identity. Then, her house is searched and a note from her ex-boyfriend is found. In the letter it states,
“I’m sure that your kids are good kids, but it really wouldn’t matter how good they may be…the fact is, I just don’t want children.”
After this, Mr. Zero begs Susan one more time to confess and then Mr. Zero and Susan both tell the police the real story. She didn’t want to be a mom anymore but she didn’t want her kids to be without a mom. She contemplated driving all three of them into the lake but then changed her mind last minute and got out. After the car was submerged, Mr. Zero was born and the nine day investigation of the crime and the search for Mr. Zero began.