ME: Does a powerful last 15 minutes make a play?
JOSH: No, it makes a powerful last 15 minutes.
#76. Victory Gardens presents WE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT A PRESENTATION ABOUT THE HERERO OF NAMBIA, FORMERLY KNOWN AS SOUTH-WEST AFRICA, FROM THE GERMAN SUDWESTAFRIKA, BETWEEN THE YEARS 1884-1915. A group of actors improv out a genocide. They want to collectively tell the story of the horrors of the extermination of the Herero tribe. They’ve got a box of letters from a German soldier to his wife, a bulletin board of wikipedia articles and 6 different perspectives. Without a playwright, each actor scripts a different play. Without a director, each actor casts with personal agendas. And without guile, each actor spirals out of control. What happens when 3 black actors and 3 white actors improvise deep emotions for real facts? WE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT is a rehearsal in progress.
This is not quite the well-orchestrated “Circle of Transformation” vehicle of actors’ scene work. It’s a bit more home-spun. It starts out as a deliberately clunky presentation to the theatre audience. A dynamic and intentionally nervous Tracey N. Bonner (Black woman) outlines the presentation. The ensemble acts as Vanna White types to Bonner’s Pat Sajak. They help illustrate the historical overview. This clever opening shifts quickly to a behind-the-scenes rehearsal space. The bulk of the action or non-action takes place here. The actors work to figure out the story. It’s group work without any clear leadership. Bonner’s character is self-appointed authority which works somewhat to move the story or the non-story along. In between a lot of downtime, the talented actors playing actors each get a moment or more to showcase a perfectly crafted emotional scene. The ever-changing Leah Karpel (Sarah) was particularly fascinating to watch in her hilarious and vulnerable antics. Everybody and everything is working towards this poignant last scene. The final fifteen minutes of the show are riveting. The action itself enthralls but it’s the characters’ reactions to where-they-went-in-the-moment that is unforgettably compelling.
Playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury and Director Eric Ting have the bookends to a classic in the making. Rehearsed unrehearsed rehearsal isn’t that interesting. Tightening up the scene work with more substantial story will take this from cute to captivating for the entire duration, not just 15 minutes.
Running Time: One hundred minutes includes a ten minute delayed start with no intermission
At Victory Gardens, 2433 N. Lincoln
Written by Jackie Sibblies Drury
Directed by Eric Ting
Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays at 7:30
Saturdays at 4pm and 7:30pm
Sundays at 3pm
Thru April 29th
Buy Tickets at www.victorygardens.org