By Ken Urban; Directed by Adam Fitzgerald
Produced by kef theatrical productions
Off Broadway, Play
Runs through 9.6.15
59E59 Theatres, 59 East 59th Street
by Molly Marinik on 9.1.15
Heather Alicia Simms and Joshua David Robinson in Sense of an Ending. Photo by Carol Rosegg.
BOTTOM LINE: A tense and compelling look at the Rwandan genocide from the eyes of an American journalist seeking the truth.
It's 1999 and Rwanda is reeling after extreme violence and genocide. Sister Justina (Heather Alicia Simms) and Sister Alice (Dana Marie Ingraham) are on trial for their participation in murders that occurred at their church. They maintain their innocence. Ken Urban's Sense of an Ending looks at the Rwandan genocide and those implicated in its atrocities.
Charles (Joshua David Robinson) is an American journalist who has come to write about the nuns. Dealing with his own professional conflicts, he is intent on getting to the truth and producing an excellent piece of journalism to bolster his career. The nuns are to go to Belgium to be tried, and Charles need their side of the story before the trial begins. He soon learns that it's more complicated than all that. Paul (Hubert Point-Du Jour) is a soldier in the small town who keeps an eye on Charles. Dusabi (Danyon Davis) has a personal connection to the violence perpetrated in the church and provides pertinent information about his own experience. Through various conversations Charles draws his own conclusions about the complicated issue at hand.
An urgency runs through Sense of an Ending, as Charles knows he needs to get to the truth before the nuns leave. Director Adam Fitzgerald never lets the mounting tension lag, and with swift transitions that seamlessly pop from one scene to the next there's a pervasive sense that the conflict is consuming everyone's lives. Urban doesn't need to over-explain the historical significance here. Thrust into the small town, the details come to light as Charles conducts his interviews. What's fact or fiction becomes the dramatic wild card.
David Arsenault's set design provides useful playing space for the cast in 59E59 Theater's tiny Theater C. Set as a thrust with seating on three sides, the audience is close enough to feel an intimacy with the characters that enhances the mounting tension. This is highly engaging, however it also means that you can see fellow audience members, and when they are behaving badly it's mighty distracting. Note to audiences: your job is to sit still and shut up. But that's the hazard of live theatre and this excellent cast gives committed performances regardless. Sense of an Ending is a compelling production that leaves you with much to think about.
(Sense of an Ending plays at 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street, through September 6, 2015. Performances are Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:30; and Sundays at 3:30. Tickets are $18 and are available at ticketcentral.com. For more show info visit 59e59.org.)