Complex portrayals bring 'Rebel Armies' to life

November 12, 1993|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,Contributing Writer

"Rebel Armies Deep Into Chad," the Mark Lee play in production at the Colonial Players of Annapolis, may be talky with minimal action and have the goofiest title this side of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, but it is a "must-see" nonetheless.

The backdrop is contemporary Africa, where lapses in judgment, as a young American journalist discovers, can prove fatal.

We know that something terrible happened to Neal, the reporter, while he was on assignment in Uganda. But what?

His editor, a cynical Englishman named Dove, desperately wants to know the details of Neal's Ugandan misadventures to advance his own career at his younger colleague's expense.

But when Neal remains close-mouthed after arriving at the editor's home outside of Nairobi, Kenya, Dove resorts to booze and a pair of prostitutes from Nairobi to loosen Neal's tongue.

The resulting night of drunken debauchery and revelation is the basis of the play and is brought to life in riveting fashion by a talented quartet of Colonial Players actors.

Rick Clark is suitably anguished as the young writer.

Mary, portrayed by Connie Winston, deftly tempers the prostitute's sleaziness with her resilient, all-consuming will to survive.

There is aching sadness in Melissa Fleming's Christina, the Ugandan student turned hooker by the desperation of her refugee status.

More problematic is Kurt Dornheim's portrayal of the embittered Dove. So loathsome and conniving is his character, that it is hard to accept Dove's turn-around at the end.

I suspect this might be the playwright's doing; Mr. Dornheim is remarkable throughout the play.

I commend James Gallagher in his directorial debut.

It is difficult to bring anything to the stage convincingly, but this sprawling, emotional brawl is more difficult than most.

Despite numerous pitfalls, the appropriate artistic trains ran on time. Bravo!

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