Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Neither the controversy nor the success surrounding the production is completely unexpected. Ari Roth, Mosaic's founding Artistic Director, built a reputation for politically astute theater during his 18 seasons with Theater J, based at the D.C. Jewish Community Center. The JCC let him go late last year because of differences of opinion, and he immediately organized a new company and found a new home at the Atlas Performing Arts Center in a developing part of the city.
Roth's goal for his company is to create what he calls a "fusion community" bringing together artists of many races, religions, and cultures, looking at what is common among their disparate lives and working together to "beat back injustice and outrage."
Playwright Jay O. Sanders, a longtime actor, explained that he was driven to create Unexplored Interior when he realized that the slaughter had occurred while a United Nations peacekeeping force had no ability to stop it, and that much of the world was oblivious to the situation. He wanted to honor the lives lost and commemorate their existence.
But this is no pious pageant; director Derek Goldman shows the audience a vibrant tapestry of people, none of whom is perfect. The protagonist is Raymond (Desmond Bing), who leaves his home in Rwandaand his beloved grandfather, the Tutsi storyteller Felicien (Bill Grimmette)to study filmmaking in New York. He is halfway around the world when the madness strikes his country, and years later he feels impelled to return and learn what he can about that time.
Sanders has created numerous incisive portraits, vividly brought to life by Goldman and his cast. They include Gen. Romeo Dallaire (Jeff Allin), the UN commander tortured by what he could not accomplish; Thomas Sibomana (Michael Anthony Williams), a Hutu bureaucrat trying to placate the regime while falling in love with a Tutsi woman; Raymond's best pal Alphonse (Freddie Bennett), swept up in the unrest; and Cat-Reen Bunyanyezi (Shannon Dorsey), Raymond's childhood friend. The entire 14-member cast takes this ambitious subject matter and triumphs with it.
As if that wasn't enough, the physical production is intensely beautiful. Luciana Stecconi's sculptural scenic design evokes the landlocked hills of Rwanda, brought to life through Harold F. Burgess II's lighting design and especially Jaren Mezzocchi's projections, by turns scene-setting and surrealistic.
Mosaic Theater Company of DC