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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
Butterflies of Uganda
Based on the true experiences of the child soldiers of Uganda, this violent tragedy is horrendous to watch. Written by Darin Dahms and Soenke C. Weiss, it receives an impeccable production at the Greenway Court Theatre by an African American, Cameroonian, Nigerian and Ugandan cast.
The power of the actors overcomes the sometimes one-dimensional script in which the religion-crazed Lord's Resistance Army recruit and murder with fanatical brutality. It begins with Mercy questioning her mother Mary about her parentage. Mary is reluctant to answer but eventually does and, in the flashback, Mercy plays the young Mary who is kidnapped with her brother and father by the LRA. Mary is forced to kill her father to toughen her up for the killing fields ahead. She is saved by a girl her own age, Salome, but that friendship ends much the same way.
Joseph Kony, the crazed charismatic Chairman of the LRA, gives Mary to Victor, his lieutenant, as a wife. Victor rapes her brutally and, after rejection by her mother and tribe and a failed suicide attempt, Mercy is born. Two small points of light among the horrors are Olive and David who work in a rehab center for abducted children. The ending crosscuts Chairman Kony's press conference with Mary's search for the mother.
The playwrights try to bring out other shadings of the culture in a prologue in which Kony expresses the idealism of his religious conviction and, later, through a beautiful butterfly and rose fable which expresses undying devotion. The latter is rather clumsily inserted by Mary into an interrogation scene with Kony.
A scene between Victor and Faisal, the Arab businessman who supplies him with guns, gives background on the manipulation of the Ugandans by the Muslim hierarchy. Like the fable, it stands alone, as if this were something the authors wanted to include, no matter where. When the emphasis is taken from Mercy and the children, these didactic scenes lose tension.
There are no weak links at all in the cast, which is remarkable, but special mention must be made of the beauty and poignance of Nana Kagga-Hill as Mercy. Also deeply absorbed by their roles and projecting layered passion are Kem Saunders as Victor/Father, Kenyetta Lethridge as Salome, Alvina Carroll as Mary, Ayana Cahrr as Mary's Mother, Anthony Salas as Kony, Angela Bennett as Olive, Carl Crudup as David and Charles Michael as Mary's brother Patrick.
James Eric and Victoria Bellocq's graceful set design meets all the needs of the production complemented by Fritz Davis's subtle and intuitive lighting design. Darin Dahms directs with passion and sensitivity.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide