Survive, She Said


The 1994 massacre of Rwanda’s Tutsis by their Hutu neighbors may have earned the country a horrific place in the media, but it has so far garnered relatively little theatrical attention. Leslie Lewis Sword and director Edward Vilga focus on the remarkable story of Immaculée Ilibagiza, a young Tutsi woman who survived the event by hiding, along with seven other women, in a Hutu pastor’s extra bathroom for 91 days. Ilibagiza, who now lives in the United States, gives her ordeal a strongly religious interpretation, which can occasionally be off-putting; if, as she presents it, God protected the room in which she and her companions were huddled, one might wish he’d done something similar for the 400,000 Tutsi outside. At the same time, it’s clear that Ilibagiza’s faith gave her the strength to endure an unimaginable situation, and her posture of forgiveness toward the Hutu militia leader responsible, at least indirectly, for her family’s death is a genuine inspiration. Sword’s one-woman performance makes riveting theater of Ilibagiza’s plight; morphing from aged priest to frenzied Hutu to frightened young girl, she drives home both the outward terror of the situation and Ilibagiza’s inner spiritual growth. In this, she’s aided immensely by Paul Hudson’s elegant lighting design, the primary ornament of this spare production.