‘Remember 92: Sierra Leone Will Rise Again’ – The Horrors of War Come Home

By Ernest Kearney — Since the period of decolonization in Africa, that continent has been lashed continuously with bloody internal conflicts involving nearly half of its 54 nations.  The Sierra Leone Civil War (1991-2002) was one of the bloodiest and longest due to both sides in that conflict being able to sustain the hostilities with funding from the trade of the West African country’s major commodity – diamonds.

Remember 92: Sierra Leone Will Rise Again, by Playwright Jonima Diaby, focuses on the Gassama family.  The matriarchal Acy (Shalimar Garba) who is struggling to keep her family, sons Ibrahim (Francis Edemobi) and Medo (Devon Weetly), and her sister Yema (Maya Somanya), safe and insulated from the violence that is slowly spreading over their nation.  The patriarch of the family, Jonima (Mel Chude) has left his wife and children to try to negotiate a cease-fire between the two factions.

It is Jonima’s return, bringing with him into his home the horrors of what he has seen in the war that sets the action of the play spiraling into a tortured tempest that will eventually topple the family.

For most of the cast and crew, this is a tale that has touched all their lives, and this is all too present in the passions and pain they bring to the stage.

There are problems with both the play and the production.
Diaby does not allow the impurities of war, that Jonima carries within himself, to seep subtlety out, befouling his home and perniciously infecting those he loves.  Rather the playwright surges them forth.

And Director Caroline Ducrocq, while she keeps a strong hand on the lava flow of emotions spewing across her stage, is guilty of some inexcusably clunky moments. 

In one scene Jonima is confronted by the ghosts of those whose lives he ended. Here Ducrocq employs sheeted and masked actors to represent the terrors of PTSD.  Unfortunately, the “terrors” come across more like trick-or-treaters who have lost their bags.  Simple audio effects would have been a more effective means of rendering the mental trauma being suffered. 

Also, the show suffered from near-terminal “black-out-itis,” leaving the audience sitting in the darkness for extended periods.  This not only had the effect of undercutting the play’s mounting tension but resulted in that great sin of the Hollywood Fringe: running over the stated playing time.  I was late making it to the next show I was scheduled to review even though it was at the theatre right next door.

However, what saves Remember 92: Sierra Leone Will Rise Again are the passions bound within the writing and in the performances of its actors.  All those mentioned, as well as Rosie Lee Hooks and Patrick Caberty infuse their roles with those qualities that reflect the best and the worst of our kind and at the end illuminate the stage with that inner hope which has proven to be the salvation of humanity throughout its history. 

And it is that light the audience carries with them as they leave….


Remember 92: Sierra Leone Will Rise Again

Played During the Hollywood Fringe Festival 2024

no additional performances at this time


Ernest Kearney - author

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at TheTVolution.com and workingauthor.com. Follow him on Facebook.

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