Spotlight: The Lost Boys of Sudan

The civil war in Sudan displaced approximately 20,000 boys, leaving them to their own devices amid desperate circumstances of bloodshed and famine. The Lost Boys of Sudan follows three of these survivors—K-Gar (Samuel G. Roberson Jr.), A.I. (André Samples), and T-Mac (Namir Smallwood)—in their journey from rural roots to a refugee camp and, finally, to Fargo. The first act in Lonnie Carter's drama is all frenetic energy and confusion. The ensemble takes on the roles of cows for the opening, poetically delineating a culture in which a boy attains manhood when he is ready to care for his cattle. Soon enough, though, the war intrudes and the action breaks down into a series of manic and frightening vignettes. The boys are coerced into working in oil fields (and, strangely, singing a song to the tune of "Dixie"). Next, they're variously threatened and cajoled by assorted armed maniacs representing military factions. After a harrowing walk across a rope bridge, they end up in camp Kakuma, where a kindly teacher (Shawn Hamilton) befriends them. They soon learn they are to be relocated to North Dakota, and a pair of camp elders (Hamilton and Sonja Parks) fills them with equal doses of fear and hope. It's a heady sequence, one that rides a wave of genuine adrenaline even if it at times flirts with incoherence. The second act is a bit of a puzzler. There's a hilarious scene when the boys first arrive and, freezing, crank their thermostat to 95. Their minder, played again by Hamilton, gamely introduces them to the concept of canned food. But from here Carter divides the action into a series of brief scenes that flash by without managing to draw us into the characters' evolution. He also relies heavily on rhyming couplets for dialogue, which evokes the simple poetry of the American experience (material plenty, faith in our own niceness, a spirit of ham-handed welcoming) but often distracts with clunky and obvious rhymes. Still, the young men at the center of the production turn in rich and smart performances, and while our heads might be stimulated more than our hearts, we still resonate with hopeful anticipation for the men their characters are soon to become.

 
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