Blanket Amnesty

On the town(ship): Amajuba
photo: Robert Day

Culled from the lives of five actors from South Africa's "lost generation," Amajuba is a heartfelt show stuffed with spirituals and dance about youth under apartheid. Given past theater works from that country seen here, one might expect disturbing glimpses of brutal oppression, moments of outsized courage, and a clear tally of the human costs under an inhuman system. So it is remarkable that viewers might not be able to make out the presence of apartheid at all, except in one vignette. The five tales, melodramas really, narrated in the first person, are stories of loss and hardship meted out by black Africans toward their own people.

Director and writer Yael Farber has created an energetic show about surviving sadly commonplace realities seemingly—but not really—detached from apartheid: child abandonment, abusive teachers, gang violence, and crimes of poverty. The cast comprises wonderfully talented performers, but their stories would benefit from some editing and real poetry. Disappointing direction sometimes sidesteps a dramatic event or telegraphs an unsurprising conclusion. The ending depicts not victory over apartheid but young rebels executing one of their own, a curious choice for a generation that will forever be known as the founders of the new South Africa.

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