by Lynn on April 29, 2011

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Brigantine Room, Harbourfront. Written by Colleen Wagner, Directed and designed by Jennifer H. Capraru. Lighting by Sandra Marcroft. Music composed by Solange Liza Umuhire. Translated by Emmanuel Munyarukumbuzi and Anselme Nirere. Starring: Ruth Nirere, Jacqueline Umubyeyi, Solange Liza Umuhire Jean Paul Uwayezuk.

Presented by Isôko Theatre Rwanda in association with Theatre Asylum Canada.

The Monument by Colleen Wagner is a harrowing play about the dehumanizing effects of war and the humanizing effects of forgiveness. The journey between the two is treacherous. The play could take place in any war-torn country where decent young men follow orders to do the most despicable crimes and come to like it.

Stetko is such a young man. As a soldier in his country he raped and killed several women, burying them in a forest. He is tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. Miraculously a woman named Mejra saves him on the condition that he does exactly what she wants. I say ‘miraculously’ because Mejra is the mother of one of the young women Stetko raped and killed. Both characters need something from the other. The play is painstaking in charting the journey both take to get what they want and need.

The Monument is all the more moving because it’s performed by Isôko Theatre of Rwanda—a country that unfortunately knows a thing or two about genocide. The play is performed in Kinyarwanda with English Surtitles.

The play is usually performed by two actors representing Stetko and Mejra. Director/producer/designer, Jennifer H. Capraru, has ‘opened up’ the play to include two other women who play drums and sing traditional songs during the performance, while one also represents the spirit of Mejra’s dead daughter.

Ritual factors very heavily in the production. There is a ceremony of sorts as two women, holding jars with lighted candles inside, lead Stetko into the circular playing area. While he tells his story, similar candles in jars on the floor circling the playing area, are lit. The movement at times seems stylized.

The interesting thing about this choice of production is that I found that it distances us from the burning emotion of the play. Just as a scene moves or grabs us, a traditional drumming section or song cuts into it and diminishes the punch. The production is effective in its way—there are many arresting scenes—I just found the emotional punch of The Monument is not as hard as I’ve seen it. Still the opportunity to see a company from Rwanda perform the play should not be missed.

The Monument opened at the Brigantine Room, Harbourfront, April 27, 2011 and will close May 1, 2011

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