Entertainment » Theatre

We Are Proud To Present

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Sep 10, 2018
A scene from "We Are Proud To Present," at the Epic Theatre Company through September 22.
A scene from "We Are Proud To Present," at the Epic Theatre Company through September 22.  (Source:Epic Theatre Company)

"We Are Proud To Present" is a play within a play. Epic Theatre Company's first offering of the season is a fascinating comedy/drama in which the cast re-enacts the events leading up to a little known genocide in Namibia.

The play's complete title is "We Are Proud To Present A Presentation About The Herero Of Namibia Formerly Known As Southwest Africa From The German Sudwestafrika Between The Years 1884 - 1915."

In director Tiffany Fenton's intense production, the play relates how the Germans took control of the country and exploited its residents. For years, members of the Herero tribe were enslaved, tortured, and murdered.

The cast members (who are never referred to by name) engage in arguments about their characters and their motivations. However, what starts as good-natured joking evolves into something more volatile as the play goes on.

Playwright Jackie Sibbles Drury is not giving us a history lesson about genocide, but rather an exploration of how art chooses to portray human suffering and prejudice.

It's a heavy subject, but there are plenty of light moments, including a rap performed by Melanie Stone and Ian Hudgins.

In one funny scene, Justin Pimental delights other members of the cast by impersonating an elderly black woman.

A debate focuses on the egregiousness of telling the story from the Germans' point of view rather than from the Africans. Court Stafford, one of the black actors, believes the Africans are being pushed aside.

Stafford and Pimental, who is white, engage in a heated argument over who has the right to play a role. Is it solely a matter of skin color or is it about experience? It's an issue that raises a lot of questions.

"We Are Proud To Present" features moments that might be disturbing to some audience members. One of these is when Hudgins, playing a German, has a violent confrontation with Stafford, an African man who just wants to go home.

This chilling scene underlies the importance of the whole Black Lives Matter movement and serves as a prologue to the play's finale, which features Hudgins and Pimental engaging in an act of stunning inhumanity.

The cast, which also includes Ibrahima Tylar Jahumpa (Wolf Hall), is uniformly excellent. Stafford is riveting as an actor who is fighting to honor the people who died in Namibia as well as his own racial heritage.

Pimental, seen recently in "Life Sucks," is an impressive comedic actor. He also displays excellent range, transforming from being a seemingly happy go lucky man one minute to a monstrous bigot the next.

Fenton's direction is confident and fluid in an intermissionless production that runs a lean 80 minutes.

The best art holds up a mirror to our hopes, our fears, and our prejudices.

"We Are Proud To Present" reminds us that all of our histories matter.

"We Are Proud To Present" runs through September 22. Epic Theatre Company. Artists Exchange - Theatre 82, 82 Rolfe Square, Cranston, RI. For tickets, www.epictheatreri.org.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.


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