By David Walters
I want you to mark a space out on the floor where you are now, three-foot by four-foot.
Seriously, do it; it’s important in understanding what I have to say.
See it, good.
In your mind’s eye, I now want you to put a toilet in that space.
Now I want you to get into that space.
It’s small right, but enough room to do your business.
Now I want you to put five other people in there with you. Crowded beyond capacity, yes?
Now I want you to add two more people.
No talking and no sounds, please, lest you be discovered. You can only flush the toilet when you hear another toilet in the house flushing. And as the months go by every moment is spent fearing for your lives, never knowing how long you have to stay in there and never knowing when you’ll be discovered and immediately raped, beaten and butchered with a machete or killed with a board with nails pounded through it.
This is what Immaculee Ilibagiza survived during the systematic genocide in Rwanda in 1994.
Beginning in April of that year, the Hutu faction in Rwanda rose up, after the killing of the president, to exterminate each and every Tutsi, the Twa peoples, the Batwa, and any moderate Hutus throughout the country. Over the course of three months, over one million were slaughtered, many by hand.
Let me say that again, one million, three months, by hand. 70% of the Tutsi peoples were wiped out.
The slaughter lasted approximately 100 days before it was abated.
How does one live through that?
And if so, by some miracle or act of God, how does one live with that?
Miracle in Rwanda is not a story about the atrocities, fear, the horrors of bloodlust and revenge. It is a story about unquantifiable, unfathomable forgiveness.
The solo Rwandan actress/dancer, Malaika Uwamahoro, tells the story through movement, strong characterizations, and an open heart. She is wonderfully priceless in her choices, presentation and stage presence, allowing the audience to emphatically love, hate and understand the motivations of all the people and situations she portrays, flowing from one to the other with a dancers grace and fluidity that carries the story to its startling, life-affirming conclusion of forgiveness.
There is power in forgiveness. There is freedom in forgiveness. There is life in forgiveness that can only be achieved this one way. There is also a transferable power in this play that flows from stage to audience you don’t want to miss.
I have to give it four stars though, not because I don’t want you to go see it. Just the opposite. The direction slows the piece down and the unnecessary blackouts hinder the flow of this horrifically beautiful story, hobbling a strong and gifted actress, keeping her from flying.
But please don’t let that keep you from experiencing Miracle in Rwanda. The real-life story of the play is bigger than the sum of its parts. There’s a humanity here that is greater than any one of us, that will stretch your ethics and morality beyond where you think you can possibly go.
Performing at the Lion Theatre on Theater Row (410 W. 42 St.)
MIRACLE IN RWANDA will perform Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7 pm; Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 2 and 8 pm; and Sundays at 3 pm. Tickets at Theatre Row are available now, with price from $39 to $59 and can be purchased by calling the Telecharge phone number at 212-239-6200 or online at www.telecharge.com. Please also check out Theatre Row’s website, www.theatrerow.org and the MIRACLE IN RWANDA website for additional information, www.miracleinrwanda.nyc
Design credits for MIRACLE IN RWANDA include: Schele Williams (Dramaturgy), Donna Lea Ford (Costume Design), Erich Keil and Gina Costagliola (Lighting Design), and Taiwo Heard (Sound Design). MIRACLE IN RWANDA is produced by Broadview Phoenix, Magis Theatre Company and Allen DeWane Harris of Acuity Productions.