By Winter Miller
Directed by Nick Bowling
At TimeLine Theatre, Chicago
“If they send their son (to get fire wood), he gets killed,” the aid worker explains, “if they send their daughter, she gets raped. So they send their daughters.” – from In Darfur
Movingly powerful dramatization of genocide makes In Darfur a ‘must see’ theatre event.
Mike Tutaj’s video projections give playwright Winter Miller’s In Darfur a cinematic depth that exposes the harsh environment in the Darfur region of Sudan. The stark bleakness of the empty, sand-filled land and the large tented refugee settlements vividly portray the plight of thousands. Using first hand knowledge since playwright Winter Miller accompanied New York Times journalist Nicholas Kristof as he covered the Sudan in 2004, Miller presents a tightly woven drama that forces us to pay attention to Darfur.
In a camp for ‘internally displaced persons’ in Darfur in 2004, we meet three people each trying desperately to deal with the genocide in the Sudan. We meet Hawa (Mildred Marie Langford) as she buries her dead (terrific use of image projections) and escapes to the safety of a refugee camp. Carlos (Gregory Isaac), an aid worker doctor dedicated to help save lives. Carlos truly cares for each of his patents as he crosses the line by getting too close to some. Add a determined journalist, Maryka (Kelli Simpkins) trying to ‘sell’ her New Yark Times editor Jan (Tyla Abercrimbie) on a front page story about genocide in Darfur and we have the elements of a world class tragedy vividly presented on stage.
In a riveting 95 minutes, larger-than-life dilemmas face the three main characters: going public with Hawa’s story may help stop the killing but it may also get her killed; Carlos worries about his personal well being if the government or the rebels find out he is speaking to a journalist. Maryka risks her life to get the story that can save lives. She is willing to risk Carlos and Hawa’s safety for the greater good because she must have a named victim to get her editor to go front page in the New York Times.
This is a face paced, intense work that has powerful visual and deeply personal intensity presents the dilemmas and complexity of warfare in Africa. Kelli Simpkins and Mildred Marie Langford were particularly impressive. Without turning into sentimentality or propaganda, director Nick Bowling finds an effective, bone-riddling staging that brings the horror of violence to our front page. Since the genocide in Darfur continues, this play is both relevant and timely. This is a show with terrific production values and effective acting. Don’t miss this theatrical gem.
At TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington, Chicago, IL, www.timelinetheatre.com, tickets $28 – $38, Wednesdays & Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 pm, running time is 95 minutes without intermission, through March 20, 2011