There are a couple of guarantees when you set off to search for the truth.
One is that it can be elusive. Another is that not everybody may be happy with your search. The final thing is there is often a good chance that once you find the truth, you may well realize that life would be much better if you had just left well enough alone.
How about making your search for the truth your life’s work, only to find out that your husband – who has been missing for two years – is dead, and that's not all.
That’s the story in the powerful production of "Burying the Bones," the play by M.E.H. Lewis that opened Friday night at In Tandem Theatre.
Set against the backdrop of South Africa just two years after the end of apartheid, director Chris Flieller brought creative energy to a play that could well have been another black-and-white story about race with easy heroes and easy villains.
This play is less about apartheid and more about deeply held personal commitment.
Each of the characters has a version of the truth, and each of them finds value in the truth in different ways.
Mae, a beautiful young woman played by Malkia Stampley, misses her husband James, played by Di’Monte Henning. Two years earlier, he was taken from the school where he taught, and she has not heard from him since, save as a specter who interrupts her sleep, begging her to find his bones and bury him.
Mae’s sister Cassandra, played by Bria Cloyd, watches out for her baby sister but has deep and dark secrets that don’t get revealed until the end of the play.
And then there is Gideon Kroeg, played by Mark Corkins.
Kroeg is a former lieutenant in the special guards and was in charge of Holiday Farm, an interrogation center and the site of thousands of tortures and deaths. He is as evil a character as you are likely to find.
At the same time, it’s instructive to hear the playwright talk about Gideon Kroeg in a recent interview.
"I love to look at monsters. What makes them monstrous, what is their world view, how do they overcome that core visceral aversion to violence," Lewis said.
"Gideon is fascinating to me. Here’s a man so proud of his accomplishments, every inch the successful self-made man, and then everything he believes in turns to muck in front of his eyes. Something I find sympathetic in Gideon is the fact that he refuses to reject or deny his actions. When people get caught, their first reaction is to show remorse, which of course was completely missing until they get caught. Gideon doesn’t show any false remorse. He’s the only person in the play who tells the unvarnished truth at all times."
Corkins’ performance is a towering one, delivering understated threats and chills with equal ferocity. His brief and tentative moment of friendship with Cassandra seems to trouble him as much as it does us.
Both Henning and Cloyd deliver passionate and well-disciplined performances. Additionally, Stampley radiates on the stage. She is stunning, sexy and marvelously proud of her commitment to find out what happened to her husband, even if the answers end up more painful than the questions.
"Burying the Bones" runs until Oct. 27. Information is available at intandemtheatre.org.
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