Good intentions in ‘Witness Uganda’

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

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


Mutant worms stay sober, even on alcohol

U.S. researchers have developed "mutant worms" that do not get drunk by alcohol, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatment for people trying to quit drinking


K-9 nose helps capture $150K in cocaine at…

A furry, four-legged security agent helped authorities stop an illegal cocaine shipment from sneaking past JFK customs.


Minnesota man asked to leave Southwest flight after…

A man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent.


Man sues hospital after surprise penis amputation

An Alabama man who went in to a hospital last month for a circumcision awoke after surgery to find his penis had been amputated, his lawyer said on Thursday.


Review: Brett Ratner's big 'Hercules' movie is small…

The latest "Hercules," starring Dwayne Johnson as the half-god beefcake of Greek myth, strips its hero and tale of most of its fantastical elements.


Scientists recreate world's smallest Monet copy

Scientists have reproduced a famous Impressionist painting using nano-printing, to create what has been described as the world's smallest work of art. Reworked at the…


Jerry Seinfeld is ambidextrous, and other Reddit AMA…

See some of the weirder highlights of Jerry Seinfeld's recent Reddit AMA.

Going Out

Grab a pedestrian and start dancing at What…

As a New Yorker, I’ve mastered the art of focusing my gaze straight ahead. Though it occasionally piques my interest, the absurdities that play out…

U.S. Soccer

Orlando City takes shot at NYCFC over Frank…

Orlando City reminded the world how big a signing Brazilian star Kaka earlier this month with a photo of Kaka mobbed by fans juxtaposed against Lampard.


Jeremy Lin says 'Linsanity' is over as he…

Jeremy Lin lit up the NBA two years ago with his play for the Knicks but he has no desire to recreate "Linsanity" in his new career with the Lakers.


2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player…

2014 NFL Fantasy Football Top 100 overall player rankings

U.S. Soccer

NYCFC announce signing of Frank Lampard

The tease of a big signing Thursday by new MLS side NYCFC ended up being one rumored for weeks. England midfielder Frank Lampard agreed to…


Forget Wi-Fi: Li-Fi could be the future

Li-Fi technology – developed by Mexican company Sisoft – is wireless internet connectivity using specialized LED light.


Weather app Climendo might be the most accurate…

The wait for a truly accurate weather forecast could finally be over thanks to a nifty new app called Climendo.


Napkin Table puts focus off the phone and…

Michael Jan, a design student at Tunghai University in Taiwan, has invented a serviette-picnic blanket hybrid called the Napkin Table.


Essie's new Color Boutique

Essie launches high-tech kiosks at major airports and malls across the country.