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One devastating Upheaval
By Judd Hollander
Special to The Epoch Times
Apr 23, 2007

Leslie Lewis Sword in Miracle in Rwanda, charts the experiences of Rwandan massacre survivor Immaculee in a tale that the audience would like more of. (Leslie Lewis Sword)

NEW YORK–In 1994, during the Rwandan genocide in which more than 1 million people were murdered, a 24 year-old girl named Immaculee survived by hiding with seven other women in a tiny bathroom, exactly 3 feet by 4 feet, for 91 days. Her story is told in the emotionally wrenching solo show Miracle in Rwanda.

Actress Leslie Lewis Sword (who created the work) plays numerous characters in the piece, including Immaculee, the pastor who sheltered the women at great personal risk to herself, and the head of the militia who was responsible for many of the killings. (At one point he boasts he has personally killed 399 members of Immaculee's tribe and wants her for number 400.)

Thanks to some excellent and very claustrophobic staging (and great direction by Edward Vilga, also billed as the "co-creator"), the audience is put literally in that bathroom (represented by a taped rectangle on the floor) where much of the action takes place. The possibility of being discovered is Immaculee's constant companion, and one feels her terror as she hears the militia just outside her door time and again.

But this is more than a play about the horrors that went on. At its heart is Immaculée's very personal journey and, thanks to her unquestionable faith in God, the inner strength and courage she finds-attributes which not only get her through the ordeal but also cause her to plan for the future even before it's clear she'll survive. And in perhaps the most touching moment of all, she learns to forgive those who have committed these atrocities.

Sword is brilliant and compelling in the various roles, effortlessly switching from one to the next. Many of these changes are accomplished by shifts in lighting (nice work by Paul Hudson). Most importantly, Sword makes the experience come alive by having the audience live it with her, rather than just giving a recap of what happened.

The only problem with the work is that it's too short. While Immaculée's time in hiding is covered nicely, it would be nice to learn about what happened to the women afterwards; as well as what became of the other people in the story.

An excellent piece of theater, Miracle in Rwanda should be seen by anybody who needs a brush-up on world events both past and present.

Miracle in Rwanda
By Leslie Lewis Sword
with Edward Vilga

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