Mystical history comes to life at The Pershing Square Signature Center in Katori Hall’s Our Lady of Kibeho.
Our Lady of Kibeho is based on real life events that transpired in 1981 Rwanda when three young school girls, Alphonsine Mumureke (Nneka Okafor), Anathalie Mukamazimpaka (Mandi Masden) and Marie-Claire Mukangango (Joaquina Kalukango), claimed to see the Virgin Mary. These apparitions cause mayhem amongst the community, both socially and spiritually. Some of the clergy, including Sister Evangelique (Starla Benford), Father Tuyishime (Owiso Odera) and Father Flavia (T. Ryder Smith), find themselves searching for answers from the visionaries, as well as from their own personal faith.
Katori Hall’s passion of this story is evident throughout the script and the team working on Our Lady of Kibeho helped to translate that passion to the audience. In tandem with thoughtful direction by Micheal Grief, Hall brings this unique history back to life with an underlying commentary of the need for peace, faith and love. Micheal McElroy’s original music and music direction added just the right amount of emotional enhancements, which were well balanced with the sound design by Matt Tierney. The lighting design by Ben Stanton was creative and the scenic design by Rachel Hauck transported us to 1981 Rwanda with whimsical realism. Credit must also be given to dialect coach Dawn-Elin Fraser, as the central and east African accent was well executed.
The three school girls who the story of Our Lady of Kibeho circles around all equally hold their own weight in their respective roles. Though Nneka Okafor is making her Signature Theatre debut in the role of Alphonsine, she commands the stage as the loveable, meek and oppressed teen. Masden delivers Anathalie to the audience with palpable empathy and Kalukango elicits gasps from the audience in almost every scene.
Owiso Odera as Father Tuyisime is one of the most relatable characters in the play. Odera portrays the kind hearted though flawed in faith priest with the devotion of a prophet. He is a wonderful counter to Benford’s cantankerous Sister Evangelique. One of the most notable performances in Our Lady of Kibeho is Niles Fitch as Emmanuel. Though only on stage for a few moments at a time, he is captivating, his eyes illuminate with the soul and journey of Emmanuel.Our Lady of Kibeho offers a trip back in time to uncover questions that are still relevant today. Whether you are a skeptic, a mystic or somewhere in between, you will feel the genuine love for this story at the Signature Theatre!
Review By: Staci Morin
Photos By: Sara Krulwich