note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Beverly Creasey
Company One seems to thrive on provocative theater. J.T. Rogers’ THE OVERWHELMING (through Nov. 21st) is an ambitious attempt to shed light on the genocide in Rwanda. The Company One cast does a heroic job of fleshing out Rogers’ sweeping story---but the story is, as the title proclaims it will be, more than a bit “overwhelming.”
Rogers keeps you on your toes, trying to absorb the geography and geopolitical intrigue as characters betray confidences and each other to save their country. He places an American professor and his writer wife at the center of the play and there’s the rub. These “ugly Americans” are so full of themselves and their “insights” into Rwanda’s “problems” (without even speaking the language!)--- that we can’t possibly identify with them. Perhaps we could identify with the Rwandan doctor who invited them in the first place but we only meet him through his letters in Act I.
Director Shawn LaCount gets lovely work from the players, notably from Tory Bullock and Gabe Goodman as fast friends despite their positions in the American household, Bullock being the servant and Goodman the disillusioned son of the pompous prof (Doug Bowen-Flynn) and his new wife (Lyndsay Allyn Cox). Peter Brown supplies amusement as the quintessential, disengaged American ex-patriot and Mason Sand makes the obtuse Frenchman downright hilarious.
Wonderful, too, are Cedric Lilly as the Tutsi doctor the Americans are looking for, John Adekoje as the Hutu opposition, Obehi Janice as the doctor’s desperate wife, Chima Chikazunga as the exasperated U.N. peacekeeper and Fedna Jacquet as the beautiful woman who fascinates the American teenager.