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Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013

In Tandem’s ‘Burying the Bones’

South Africa’s unquiet dead

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In Burying the Bones at In Tandem Theatre, an apolitical housewife living in post apartheid South Africa tries to find out what happened to her husband who’s been missing for the past two years. His ghost haunts her repeatedly now, asking her to find his killer and bury his bones.

“The truth belongs to the living” is a phrase heard time and time again in M.E.H. Lewis’ part mystery, part political commentary on the aftermath of the “killing secrets” of Apartheid that the now convened Truth and Reconciliation Commission is trying to unearth. And the old adage applies here: Be careful what you search for. You just might find more than you bargained for.

Such is the case for innocent, unknowing Mae (Malkia Stampley). Over the course of the play, Mae tries to make sense of all the dissonance—real and surreal—invading her life, be it the incendiary talk of her tough, defiant sister Cassandra (Bria Cloyd), the seductive pleading of her husband’s ghost James (Di’Monte Henning) or the self-rationalizing cruelty of white Afrikaner officer on trial (Mark Corkins).

In Tandem Artistic Director Chris Flieller does as best he can with the overly talky, at times preachy script, having wisely invested in a group of fine actors. Corkins shines as Gideon, showing a human side, especially when interacting with Cloyd’s shaman healer Cassandra. These two have far more to work with than the husband-and-wife team of Mae and James, although actors Stampley and Henning achieve an engaging chemistry, playful and serious.

Despite the way-too-obvious ending (veteran mystery lovers will spot it early on in the second act), the immense tragedy of racial inequality and war crimes is brought to the surface with a resonating intimacy. As James says to his beloved wife, “The dead belong to the living too.” In Burying the Bones, that is a truth that certainly lives on.

The show runs through Oct. 27 at the Tenth Street Theatre, 628 N. 10th St. For tickets, call 414-271-1371 or visit intandemtheatre.org.