Good intentions in ‘Witness Uganda’

Matthew Griffin and the cast of "Witness Uganda." (Credit: GretjenHelenePhotography.com)
Matthew Griffin and the cast of “Witness Uganda.” (Credit: GretjenHelenePhotography.com)

There’s no denying that the American Repertory Theater’s world premiere of “Witness Uganda” is a rousing, spirited production that challenges you to think.

Unfortunately, you can get so caught up in the emotional wallop of the piece courtesy of the studied, almost sleight of hand direction of the extraordinary Diane Paulus, that you only notice the book’s shortcomings well after the fact.

The semi-autobiographical tale of Griffin’s (co-creator Griffin Matthews) post-baccalaureate search for meaning in his life leads him to Uganda where, as a relief worker, he confronts the challenges of attempting to change the world. He’s also gay, which poses an entirely different set of challenges in the lethally homophobic environs of Uganda.

Griffin opts to exploit rather than explore the issues of sexuality with clichés, caustic, eye-rolling quips and delivery of lines like “I’m a tenor” with a flamboyance not unlike Jack in TV’s “Will and Grace.” Authentic exploration of the truth seems to have gotten lost in the kind of sass that breeds age-old stereotypes.

The piece also teeters on melodramatic at times, though Paulus thankfully keeps it from becoming a cartoonish tale populated by larger-than-life superheroes.

Matthews nicely captures the Ugandan reaction to young American aid workers through Joy (Adeola Role) who tearfully bids them farewell then immediately forgets them. Most only visit once, and rarely listen.

Griffin does create change, but only when he learns how to go about it. The real teachers are the students, who are played with compassion and compelling authenticity.

While their stories and this impressive production will inspire you, it feels like something’s missing at the core of “Witness Uganda.”

“Witness Uganda”
Through March 16th
American Repertory Theater
64 Brattle St., Cambridge
$25-$85, 617-547-8300
www.AmericanRepertoryTheater.org



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Sprint and T-Mobile offer further price discounts

Sprint unveiled a plan on Thursday that gives subscribers access to unlimited data for $60 a month, the industry's cheapest unlimited data offering.

National

Hundreds pay it forward at Florida Starbucks in…

The spontaneous chain of kindness continued for about 11 hours, totaling 457 transactions by the time it ended.

National

Weather system east of Caribbean could turn into…

An area of low pressure located east of the Caribbean Sea has a 50 percent chance of becoming a tropical depression or storm in the next 48 hours, U.S. forecasters…

National

U.S. hospital to discharge doctor treated with experimental…

An American doctor who contracted Ebola treating victims of the deadly virus in Liberia has recovered and will be discharged on Thursday by the Atlanta hospital that treated him with…

Movies

Review: 'When the Game Stands Tall' is both…

The high school football saga "When the Game Stands Tall" fumbles around for a focus while Jim Caviezel offers the most low-key coach in history.

Movies

Girlfriend in a coma: Chloe Grace Moretz

Chloe Grace Moretz is the best cheerleader "If I Stay" could ask for. As the star of the film adaptation of the successful YA novel…

The Word

The Word: Summer lovin' for Zac Efron and…

Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance between…

The Word

The Word: The Zac Efron-Michelle Rodriguez summer fling…

  Ah, the summer romance. So intense, so fleeting. With Labor Day fast approaching, it should come as little surprise that the incredibly surprising romance…

NFL

Fantasy football draft guide: How to draft your…

Many are wondering if we’re entering a new age in fantasy football drafting — one where running backs take a backseat.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Giants storylines to watch

The Giants have plenty to work on as they reach the dress rehearsal preseason game Friday night against the rival Jets.

NFL

Jets vs. Giants: 3 Jets storylines to watch

Metro looks at three Jets storylines to watch as they play the Giants Friday.

NFL

Giants expected to work Corey Washington into first-team…

The day of reckoning for the Giants' fringe players will fall upon them Friday night against the Jets.

Sex

Big weddings may lead to long-term happiness

Dreaming of a big wedding? A new study indicates that the longer your guest list, the happier you’ll be in the long run. l A…

Sex

Online dating for every generation

Frank Jackson and his mother Maggie are like lots of modern families: They have dinner together regularly, keep each other updated on their lives —…

Wellbeing

Going green could be the key to getting…

If we could just pursue the things that would actually make us happy, we could help the environment too, according to a New York researcher.…

Tech

Siren: A new dating app that puts women…

Online dating can be brutal, especially for single women. Noting that many women hate wading through inappropriate messages and photos, two tech entrepreneurs decided to…