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

The new show at Artists Rep is a theatrical mic drop. The audience sat in silence for three minutes (I timed it) when the show ended on opening night, with only the sounds of a few people trying to swallow their sobs.

It's a hilarious, belly-laughing show about German soldiers committing genocide in Namibia. The troops stationed there at the turn of the 20th century colonized Herero land, forced its residents to build a railroad, then took their cattle and exiled them into the desert, wiping out 80 percent of Namibia's Herero population. But playwright Jackie Sibblies Drury, in an unexpected play of genius, packages this dense history as a presentation by a group of lovable but deeply flawed actors who are workshopping a play about the genocide.

On a mostly empty stage, Chantal Degroat leads a cast that includes "White Man," "Black Man" and "Another Black Man" in a series of skits that jump from present-day improv workshops to past atrocities.

Your belly will hurt from laughing at Rebecca Ridenour's ukulele rendition of "Edelweiss," until the play makes a 180 and gut-punches you with the harsh, horrible reality of racial genocide. Then, all you can do to stare at the blank stage, with the house lights on, and practice your deep breathing.

See it: 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 at Artists Repertory Theatre, 1515 SW Morrison St., 241-1278. 7:30 pm Wednesday-Sunday and 2 pm Sunday, March 16-April 10. $48.

Vin Shambry, Chantal DeGroat, Chris Harder – photo by Owen Carey,
Vin Shambry, Chantal DeGroat, Chris Harder – photo by Owen Carey,