"The Nobodies: Stories of the Child Soldiers of Uganda
Novox Theatre Group;
directed by Georgeanna Smith; Wheeler Arts Center
Can a theater transform the world? Transforming words and movement into story and meaning is difficult enough. Fortunately, the new Novox Theatre Group attempts the former and still succeeds in the latter with their inaugural performance. Developed from writer/director Georgeanna Smith’s senior project at Butler University, The Nobodies gives voice to the thousands of children who have been forced to become soldiers in northern Uganda by Joseph Kony. Smith dresses eight barefoot adult actors in pale cotton dresses and knickers, conjuring an early 19th century American playground filled with battling pirates and fussing princesses. With the on and off of stage lights, the actors switch back and forth between children in frenetic play and abductees forced to kill each other, fight battles and submit to rape. In her best moments, Smith mixes survivors’ memories with lilting, ritualistic movements that underscore the vulnerability of children under the awesome power of adults, their institutions and religions. Then, Nobodies transcends the political to the universal. Unfortunately, a couple of players are reduced to nasally Lilly Tomlin-esque imitations of children, and although child actress Lilia Smith is used effectively as a silent witness to the kidnapped children, the elder Smith obliterates her mystic presence by assigning her a clunky antiwar speech at the end. With that, she belittles the audience and the impact of her own work. Through Jan. 20; 317-418-2437.