Biro is a work of undoubted honesty, conveying truths about a range of subjects that most Americans are far too willing to forget: the crises of war and survival in central Africa (here specifically Uganda), partly caused by our government’s policies; the world crisis of AIDS; the miseries of immigrants lost in the bureaucratic shuffle. The only trouble: Packed into a straightforward narrative that suggests an autobiography or confession, these don’t necessarily make a theatrical event. Whenever Biro tries to trick itself up with theatricality, which happens several times along its 100-minute way, it loses a little of its honesty, without noticeable gain in theatricality.
The personable author-performer, Ntare Guma Mbaho Mwine, has conviction aplenty, and Peter Dubois’s production has the sense not to overload the event, touching in its projections and sound effects with a light hand. But the story rambles, and whenever it shifts its ground, or Mwine begins replicating the voices of other characters, it evokes a kind of showbiz so far removed from descriptions of what the Obote regime did to Uganda that it seems a rebuke. Biro is a piece, in short, in which form and substance, like America and Uganda, have little common ground.