Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

Unexplored Interior
(This is Rwanda: The Beginning and End of the Earth)

Mosaic Theater Company of DC
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's reviews of Winners and Losers and The Night Alive


Bill Grimmette and Desmond Bing
Photo by Stan Barouh
The launch of a new professional theater company is always a gamble, and the Mosaic Theater Company of DC would seem to be verging on the suicidal by launching an eight-play season with an epic drama about the African nation of Rwanda and the tribal genocide that killed 800,000 people in 100 days in 1994. Audiences need not have worried: the world premiere production of Unexplored Interior (This is Rwanda: The Beginning and End of the Earth) is a dazzling success.

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 Rwanda—and 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
Unexplored Interior (This is Rwanda: The Beginning and End of the Earth)
October 29th - November 29th
By Jay O. Sanders
Raymond: Desmond Bing
Felicien: Bill Grimmette
Alphonse: Isaiah Mays
Alan/Gen. Romeo Dallaire: Jeff Allin
Kate: Erika Rose
Bellman/UNAMIR/Flight Attendant: Silas Gordon Brigham
Cat-Reen Bunyanyezi: Shannon Dorsey
Thomas Sibomana: Michael Anthony Williams
Mark Twain: John Lescault
DJ/Presidential Guard/Man at Door: Baakari Wilder
Dominique/Melvin Phillips: Christian R. Gibbs
Innocent: JaBen A. Early
Col. Théoneste Bagasora: Jefferson A. Russell
Directed by Derek Goldman
Lang Theatre, Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H St. N.E.
Washington , DC
Ticket Information: 202-399-7993 or www.mosaictheater.org


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