Burying the Bones | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Burying the Bones


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BURYING THE BONES, Stage Left Theatre. Margaret Lewis's play set in South Africa should be intriguing. A woman haunted by her husband's ghost goes to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee, which investigated human rights violations under apartheid, seeking answers about his death. Meanwhile her politically minded sister gets a job attending to an unrepentant police officer who refers to the amnesty application process as a game. The situation allows Lewis to explore loyalty to family and state and the justifications given for violent tactics in policing and protesting.

Yet as directed by Kevin Heckman, this world premiere lacks urgency. Nate Combs's versatile set affords quick scene changes, which allow plenty of time for symbolic silent moments of the characters' cleansing guilt. However, these capable actors can't make up for the dull ending: Lewis toys with our expectations of who will wield a gun and how, but her manipulations feel forced.

Demetria Thomas and John Sanders show grudging respect for each other as the opinionated sister and unapologetic officer, and Sanders has a somewhat tense interrogation scene with the dead husband, played by Ansa Akyea. But there's little chemistry between him and Frances Wilkerson as the wife. The script's personal story loses its impact, which in turn dulls Lewis's political points. At a time when the concept of terrorism is so weighted, this play could have been searing.

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