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Park LaBrea News / Beverly Press
review by Madeleine Shaner

Play illustrates the toll of African genocide

"We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as South West Africa, From the German Sudwest Afrika Between the Years 1884-1915".

Yes, that is the title of this week's play in review. Don't be dismayed however, since the play itself is perfectly comprehensible, deadly honest, dreadfully disturbing, and within the bounds, unfortunately, of dramatic possibility.

This, West Coast premiere is a brave, chilling and surprisingly sometimes graveyard humorous new work by Jackie Sibblies Drury. And though I stole most of the above from the press material, I have to say the play provides a compelling evening of truth and consequences as it represents a group of actors who are attempting to dramatize the genocide of the 20th Century, by the Germans, until they lose control of their play and find out a whole raft of their own hidden truths which are, as most of us are aware, rarely amusing, in or out of hiding.

In the Matrix Theatre production, Jillian Arrnenante directs a sterling cast in one or more of Joe Stern's, or the Matrix Theatre Company's, compelling grabs at relevant theatrical display and commentary on all, or most of what is important, hard to stomach and attention grabbing in today's theatre or, indeed, in today's world.  This isn't about pretty pictures, rip-roaring farce, in-your-face shock and awe, or fun-fun-fun. It is far more likely to grip your imagination, attack your pre-conceptions and send you home a different person from the one you were when you arrived at the theatre. A well-known writer, novelist Iris Murdoch, quiet after seeing a drama, once was asked by her companion if she was all right. "No, I'm not all right," the woman replied. "If the play is any good, one is never all right afterwards."

That response could very well be made after seeing Drury's nervy play. Daniel Bess, Rebecca Mozo, John Sloan, Phil LaMarr, Joe Holt and Julianne Chidi Hill bravely and fully inhabit the roles of the tough victims and vile torturers of this unsavory, but stirringly relevant scene. Genocide is never fun, certainly not for the victims, or their families. Superb, mature performances may help the medicine go down, but the dark at the top of
the stairs, or the drop off a continent into "disappeared-ness" is far from a good time being had by all.

Nevertheless, this play should be seen, heard and inwardly digested by every sentient human being.

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