On Sunday I had the pleasure of seeing a new play by Katori Hall at the Signature Theatre.
The name of the play is OUR LADY OF KIBEHO. It’s based on the actual events that took place at a Catholic girls’ school in Kibeho, Rwanda, in 1981, when one luminous student, Alphonsine (Nneka Okafor), then two more, Anathalie (Mandi Madsen) and Marie-Claire (Joaquina Kalukango), began seeing visions of The Virgin Mary.
As someone who was raised Catholic and who knows the story of Kibeho well, my first thought when I heard this show was being produced was that I definitely wanted to see it. My second was, “I hope they treat this subject matter with respect and don’t mock it.” One of my pet peeves is the way some people these days – ones who almost always turn out to be incredibly miserable in their own, often disastrous, personal lives – glory in attempting to find company for their misery through mocking other people’s religions. Go figure, but they love using religious people for vitriolic target practice.
Well, I am so happy to report that this show was not only respectful but a well-done, beautifully acted, intense drama! The special effects were especially well-done.
Most of the action comes from the fact that the students are initially not believed by the nun who runs their school (played to scary perfection by Starla Benford), who accuses them of seeking attention. The kind priest in charge of the school (Owiso Odera) is a lot more open-minded. The bishop (Brent Jennings) calls in a representative of the Vatican (T. Ryder Smith) to investigate what’s going on…
The children are ultimately told of the bloodshed that was going to beset Rwanda if the country didn’t change its course. We all know what happened there: the Rwandan Genocide. That beautiful country became the site of a brutal massacre that turned neighbor against neighbor…if only they’d listened…
At the entrance to the auditorium was a display about the actual case. I have never, before or since, attended a show where so many people were gathered around a display, especially at Intermission, right after those unfamiliar with the story had gotten a taste of it, or at the end of the show. Everyone seemed riveted. Many people were saying it was making them think.
I’d like to say BRAVO to every single member of this ensemble cast! The show is at the Signature Theatre from now until December 7, 2014: http://www.signaturetheatre.org.
The Vatican, by the way, certified the girls’ visions as real. I can’t resist adding: hey, take that, skeptical nun!