Butterflies of Uganda

The violent conscription of children is an abuse that occurs in numerous countries around the world. Playwrights Soenke C. Weiss and Darin Dahms (also the director) explore this issue through a very personal story inspired by the revelations of Ugandan children who were abducted to serve in the rebel Lord's Resistance Army.

As the dramatic journey begins, Mercy, a Ugandan teenager, demands to know the identity of her father. Under duress, her mother, Mary, exposes her own childhood memories of being kidnapped, compelled to fight for the LRA, forced to commit unspeakable atrocities, and ultimately raped. The history unfolds as Mercy symbolically acts out her mother's experiences. The device of having the daughter walk in the mother's shoes is particularly effective and lends a mythical quality to the recollections. Though there is too much exposition in the play's early scenes, which are somewhat stilted, the stage quickly comes to life once the soldiers crash into the family home and drag the children away. From that point on there is a cascade of devastating events.

Dahms choreographs the proceedings artfully and imbues his cast with a heartfelt dedication that reflects the company's obvious passion for the material. Nana Kagga-Hill displays a range of emotions as Mercy and re-enacts the child soldier's story with total involvement. Alvina Carroll stoically conveys the burden of Mary's haunted past and her aching desire to make peace with an unyielding daughter. Through her character's catharsis, healing begins, and there is an emotionally stirring moment in the final confrontation between mother and daughter.

The evening's most memorable characterization is Ayana Cahrr's portrayal of Mary's mother. Hers is a rich, powerful performance wrung from the depths of her being as a woman whose family has been brutally destroyed. Carl Crudup, Kem Saunders, Angela Bennett, Kenyetta Lethridge, Charles Michael, Luis "Buster" Rojas, Anthony Salas, and the ensemble members contribute to the story's dramatic impact with strength, subtlety, complexity, and fierceness.

Although this play uncovers truths that are agonizing to digest, it is nevertheless a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Presented by Greenway Arts Alliance at the Greenway Court Theatre,

544 N. Fairfax Ave., L.A.

Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m. Sep. 8-Oct. 13. (323)

655-7679. www.greenwayarts.org.