World Music

Sometimes a single performance can carry an entire production


Through May 21

Tickets are $10-22

(510) 436-5085

Old Oakland Theatre, 461 Ninth St. (between Broadway and Washington), Oakland

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Orange juice, international fiscal responsibility, close friends who turn out to be mass murderers — there's a lot on playwright Steve Waters' mind. Flipping back and forth between Brussels and a nonexistent village in Africa called Irundi, World Music deals with the personal and political fallout of a fictitious genocide that brings to mind the tragic events of Rwanda and Burundi, where more than 800,000 people were murdered in 1994. The protagonist, Geoff Fallon, is a British liberal working in the European Parliament whose friendship with African civil servant Jean Kiyabe is impeding his ability to see that evil is closer than he can imagine. Waters seems to want this play to act as a tribunal in which the virtues of the European Union are debated; as a result, the political discourse at times upstages the drama and the characters occasionally feel like two-dimensional mouthpieces for Waters' lofty rhetoric. The flashbacks to Irundi take us out of the action and derail the arc of the story. However, sometimes a single performance is so strong that it carries an entire production: L. Peter Callender inhabits Kiyabe with a virtuosic blend of technique and raw emotion that reminds us why we go to the theater in the first place — to be confronted with the full range of our humanity.

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