Raymond (Desmond Bing) is a young, ethnically-Tutsi Rwandan and aspiring filmmaker who, through a twist of fate, is studying at NYU during the tragic events of 1994. What follows is Raymond’s attempt to find out what happened to his beloved grandfather, Felicien (Bill Brimmette) and to find a way to use film to tell the stories of General Romeo Dallaire (Jeff Allin), the real-life leader of the ill-fated UN peacekeeping force, Thomas Sibomana (Michael Anthony Williams), a Hutu government minister with complicated motives and, most of all, the story of the people of Rwanda.
The play deftly moves through time and in and out of reality, memory, and the developing screenplay that Raymond works on with his former NYU mentor’s wife, Kate (Erika Rose.) Through this structure, we experience Raymond’s past, hearing stories from his grandfather and bonding with his Hutu best-friend, Alphonse (Freddie Bennett), view Raymond’s present-struggles to piece together the events of a tragedy he felt he should have been present for, and see the events of the 100 bloody days of genocide that happened while Raymond was half-a-world away.
Unexplored Interior is beautifully acted. Desmond Bing anchors the cast as Raymond, leading the audience through the events of the play as well as his transformation from an enthusiastic young man with a love of film, to a person torn by loss and tragedy, but with a consuming drive and an important story to tell.
Jeff Allin is compelling as both Raymond’s mentor, Alan, and as the troubled General Dallaire, and Erika Rose’s Kate provides a wonderful, grounded, but not dispassionate view as an American outsider trying to help Raymond on his journey.
(This Is Rwanda: The Beginning and End of the Earth)
October 29 – November 29, 2015
Mosaic Theater Company of DC
at Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
2 hours, 20 minutes with 1 intermission
Wednesdays thru Sundays
Tickets: $20 – $50
Michael Anthony Williams provides all of the complicated ambiguity necessary in Thomas Sibomana, a government official who preaches genocide on the radio while secretly trying to protect Cat-reen (Shannon Dorsey), the Tutsi woman he loves; Dorsey is electric, leaving no question why every character she encounters, from Raymond to Thomas to Kate, is fascinated by and drawn to the fiery Cat-reen. Special commendation is due the young Isaiah Mays (Boy), whose energetic dancing, highly choreographed movement, and sheer presence provided a powerful link to the many unnamed victims of the genocide.
The design elements for Unexplored Interior are striking; Luciana Stecconi’s set captures the beauty of the “Switzerland of Africa” without losing the ability to be completely transformed into a variety of other locations. This transformation was made possible in part through the innovative projections designed by Jared Mezzocchi. The sound design is also impressive; in the crucial moment when Rwandan President Habyarimana’s plane is shot down, Christopher Baine creates one of the most power and successfully effective sound moments I have ever heard.
Unexplored Interior is not a play of processing or healing; Jay O. Sanders does not want his audience to “feel better” or “find a solution.” The play asks for only one thing: acknowledgment: acknowledgement that the UN, the United States, and Western powers ignored genocide more efficient than that of the Holocaust. The play is a beautiful and moving piece of theatre and, most of all, it is important because it confronts issues that American theatre audiences would rather ignore and Unexplored Interior cannot be ignored.
Unexplored Interior by Jay O. Sanders . Directed by Derek Goldman . Featuring Desmond Bing, Bill Grimmette, Isaiah Mays, Freddie Bennett, Jeff Allin, Erika Rose, Silas Gordan Brigham, Shannon Dorsey, Michael Anthony Williams, John Lescault, Baakari Wilder, Christian R. Gibbs, Jaben A. Early, and Jefferson A. Russell . Set Design: Luciana Stecconi . Light Design: Harold F. Burgess II . Sound Design: Christopher Baine . Costume Design: Ivania Stack . Properties Design: Michelle Elwyn . Projection Design: Jared Mezzocchi . Dialects: Kim James Bey . Choreography: Vincent E. Thomas . Fights: Paul Gallagher . Stage Manager: Kate Kilbane. Produced by Mosaic Theatre Company of DC. Reviewed by Jessica Pearson.