By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
photo by Andres Volovsek
Christopher Younggren is David, remembering
the summer he went on a teen church mission to Africa.
Christopher Younggren is so good at creating the character of David Zosia at age 36, recalling events from 20 years earlier, you can get several different interpretations of his story and they will all be correct.
It isn't that the details of this 70-minute one-hander by Sean Christopher Lewis are confusing. They aren't. Everything seems pretty clear – basically.
What's confusing is in deciding who is right and why.
Barclay Goldsmith is directing this independent production, a co-op effort by the Tucson Labyrinth Project in association with Apparent Artists and St. Francis Theatre. The production's three-week run will be presented in a trio of locations: St. Francis Theatre, Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre and Southside Presbyterian Church.
It is a story worth telling all over town. Even though right now all the national media attention is on our own nation's Supreme Court, “Dogs of Rwanda” does remind us how other parts of the world are dealing with essential issues of human survival, often on a more primitive level.
Here's how it goes. Younggren is onstage alone, accompanied by an office desk and a pair of glasses. He is David Zosia, author of a recently published book based on his misadventures 20 years earlier in Rwanda, at the beginning of that troubled nation's 100 days of genocide.
Meanwhile, safely sitting around here in the States, looking after our own private lives, how many of us know or care about Rwanda? David wants to provide a reason.
Back in the 16th summer of David's life, he was living in Ohio and going to church every Sunday, happy his parents would let him take part in a summer teen mission to Uganda. Mostly David was happy because Mary, a girl he wanted to know better, was also going on the same trip.
This innocence becomes important because, once in Uganda, David and Mary accidentally get drawn into the brutal conflict in bordering Rwanda, where their sweetness quickly becomes a liability.
Although unseen, Mary seems real enough in Younggren's story telling. So does the equally young but deeply affected Rwandan teen named God's Blessing.
Hardened by his harsh life but devoted to his own culture's uncompromising demands, God's Blessing experienced quite differently what happened when the three young people were caught between the warring tribes of Hutu and Tutsi while searching for a United Nations' camp of Canadian soldiers.
This is the crunch part, where David and God's Blessing have such different reactions to how they narrowly escaped into the bush.
David and Mary did get back home safely from Rwanda as privileged bystanders able to leave the genocide anger that filled the country of God's Blessing.
The second part of this play begins when David's book is published recalling this exciting time, prompting a direct message to David from God's Blessing, insisting that an important incident had been omitted from David's book.
Performances of “Dogs of Rwanda” are scheduled as follows: Saturday, Sept. 29, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, Sept. 30, at 3 p.m. in St. Francis Theatre at St. Francis Church, 4625 E. River Road; on Oct. 5-6 at Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre, 738 N. Fifth Avenue (the Historic Y); on Oct. 12-14 at Southside Presbyterian Church, 317 W. 23rd St.
All tickets are $15. For details and reservations to all performances, visit DogsofRwandaTucson.org