Searing and provocative, or pretentious and gimmicky? You'll have to decide for yourselves about Jackie Sibblies Drury's We Are Proud to Present. I'm more in the latter camp than the former, but there's no doubt it's a show that will have audiences talking—and InterAct's production, beautifully staged by Pironne Yousefzadeh and well-acted across the board, makes a good argument for the piece.
We Are Proud is a play about making a play—the plot deals with a group of performers who come together to create, through exploration and improvisation, a theater piece about genocide in Namibia. Their process grows increasingly contentious, but it's chaotic from the start—no two members of the group seem to agree on what the work should include.
In a sense, that's Drury's problem, too. We Are Proud is by turns a backstage comedy, a vaudeville revue, and a political parable. The comedy part works best—actors-playing-actors is never free of archness, but here it is done with considerable charm (the excellent cast is equally fine in the more dramatic sections). The vaudeville sketches (including a rap song and a quick distillation of South African history) aren't as clever or entertaining as they should be.
As for the parable, Drury's depiction of the politics is muddy, and the self-conscious virtuosity of the play's structure undercuts her serious goals. Drury traffics in heavy-handed tonal shifts, and the effect is clearly meant to shock—often it does, but at the expense of nuance. The show runs 100 minutes but feels longer. (Be aware that in general, terseness is not a Drury specialty. This play's full title is We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia Formerly Known As South West Africa from the German Sudwestafrika Between the Years 1884-1915.)
Through Nov. 10, $32-$38, The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom St., 215-568-8079, interacttheatre.org.
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