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If you think the title “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915” is confusing, you should see the play.

Actually, maybe you shouldn’t. Company One’s latest, a co-production with ArtsEmerson, is a bit of a baffling mess right from the start. If you don’t conduct any pre-show research, it’s not clear who these people are or why they’re making this “Presentation.”

 

Even if you do surmise that they’re portraying young actors in a rehearsal space, navigating their way through the tangled emotions of a piece about a little-known genocide, their journey is overwrought with irksome faux-improv moments that read like playwriting cliches. One minute they’re playing silly acting games, the next they’re acting out a redneck lynching.

When it’s over, each actor has his or her “a-ha” moment in an incredibly protracted silent scene that’s about five minutes too long. Finally, it ends. Or does it? The house lights never go down, so there’s no obvious clue that it’s over. At this performance, people hemmed and hawed uncomfortably for a few seemingly endless minutes before someone took the leap and found that, thankfully, it was indeed over.

It’s unfortunate that this powerful story was couched in such a ridiculous premise. The naive over-indulgence of these young characters (and perhaps too much emphasis on making it funny) make their leap to the explosive finish seem implausible at best.

Though the actors deliver solid performances, the funniest moment of the evening came after one of them threw a water bottle on the floor as he stormed out during his big moment. The audience member splashed with said water quickly followed suit.

If you go

Through Feb. 1
Paramount Center
559 Washington St., Boston
$25-$49, 617-824-8400
artsemerson.org

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