The Overwhelming

Manbites Dog Theater
Through April 4

The Overwhelming, which opened last weekend at Manbites Dog Theater, is a play about the Tutsi/ Hutu conflict. J.T. Rogers’ script places the family of an improbably clueless political science professor in Kigali at the dawn of the Rwandan genocide. Chris Burner and Jeffrey Detwiler play jaded embassy and relief worker roles with gusto, and Byron Jennings II gives Rwandan bureaucrat Samuel Mizinga an unnerving combination of unction and immovable will. Rogers’ script may ring with authenticity when it’s focused on embassy-level chatter and a displaced American sense of entitlement in foreign countries, but the conflict between Michael O’Foghludha’s professor Jack Exley and his son, Geoffrey (Michael Bergen), seem as contrived as the final confrontation in which the professor naturally has to choose between his family and Joseph Gasana (Thaddeus Edwards), a Tutsi doctor wanted by Hutu extremists. Though under Jay O’Berski’s direction, O’Foghludha gets the sense of a character at loose ends, his character never believably cracks when first he and then his family are pushed to the extreme. At other points, admittedly difficult foreign accents torture actors including Wil Weldon and the audience. Though The Overwhelming‘s heart is in the right place, the script and production are still in need of aid.