Theatre ReviewsTom Williams

The Lost Boys Of Sudan

By Lonnie Carterthe Lost boysof sudan by lonnie carter

Directed by Jim Corti

At Victory Gardens Biograph Theater

A whimsical, hip-hop rhyming take on the tragedy of  Sudan?

“You can reach for every star,”

“Aren’t you glad you came this far?”

“As I served up some waffles

/ At Holy Apostles.”

–Language from the Lost Boys of Sudan

In one of the most perplexing play’s I’ve seen in years, Lonnie Carter’s tasteless work, The Lost Boys Of  Sudan is more about style than substance.  Carter uses a thick African accent and an annoying hip-hop, rap-like irreverent rhyming language for all the characters. Carter must believe that all Africans and all African-Americans speech is in such cadences? Carter must think that using hip-hop theater elements is the best way to tell the story of war-traumatized teenagers from Sudan?

the Lost boysof sudan by lonnie carter

I believe that using irritating rhymes and hip-hop speech patterns not only makes the words hard to understand but comes off as trivializing the horrors of surviving the slaughter in the Sudan.  Combine the strong African accents with the gibberish, sports-orientated, hip-hop tirades and The Lost Boys of Sudan reduces the struggles of survival by the three teens as a provocative adventure. Too much whimsy and artsy disjointed scenes lowered the impact of the Sudan’s tragedy.

the Lost boysof sudan by lonnie carter

Told in confusing episodes with theatrical movements depicting war, we meet three Dinka tribe teens (two boys and one girl disguised as a boy) as the hide with their cows in the brush in order to escape being murdered in the Sudan wars. This artsy theatricality deluded the impact of the horrors these teens suffered.

Eventually, the three teens – T-Mac Sam (Samuel G. Roberson, Jr.),

K-Gar Ollie (Leslie Ann Shepard) and A. I. Josh (Namir Smallwood) make it to a refuge camp than on to Fargo, North Dakota. We see the first days in the USA as uplifting experience of freedom and a bewildering cultural shock. The three were not acclimated into such basics as how to use doors, showers, toilets and how to open food products such as bread, can food and boxed cereal. Yet,  the three were sent to classes and one plays basketball–amazing!

These teens quickly went form encounters with drought, war ,  crocodiles and guerrillas to the troubles with cooking, video games and Skittles.  The show moves from a profoundly disturbing treatment of the boy’s troubles to a whimsical depiction of their assimilation  into American life.

The Lost Boys of Sudan tries to be a hip-hop show and a teen survival saga; the  accented, rhyming speech patterns give the show a dream-like quality that deludes the truth of the teen’s struggle. I was  disturbed by the style of this play finding it tasteless. Lovers of hip-hop theater will enjoy this troubling work more than I did.  Lonnie Carter has been described as a “word dazzle” and “language-drunk” playwright. His style is lost on me. Carter fan will cherish this work.

Somewhat Recommend

Tom Williams

At Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N Lincoln , Chicago, IL, call 773-871-3000,, tickets $20 -$48, Tuesdays thru Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 * 8:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission.

4 thoughts on “The Lost Boys Of Sudan

  • the three teens – T-Mac Sam (Samuel G. Roberson, Jr.), Molly Midnight (LaTricia Kamiko Sealy) and A. I. Josh (Namir Smallwood)

    — The ‘lost girl’ was K-Gar Ollie (Leslie Ann Shepard). Molly Midnight was the teen they meet in South Dakota.

  • To say that hip hop and rhymes trivializes the travails of the Lost Boys reflects a lack of understanding of Lonnie Carter’s signature writing style. Whether you like his style or not (and clearly you don’t), it is distinctive and legitimate. I saw the earlier version in Mpls and was very engaged and moved by it. I don’t understand how you could call it tasteless; humor does not necessarily preclude empathy.

  • I think you need to see this production to fully understand why I believe that.

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