The play opens in the late 1860s (post Civil War and US-Dakota War, both of which are referred to), when George Bonga (beautifully portrayed by James A. Williams) is being haunted by dreams about the man he once tracked across the frozen Minnesota winter. He tells his wife (Marisa Carr) the story, and the action flashes back to the chase in 1837. After capturing Che-Ga-Wa-Skung (who, thanks to the writing and Jake Waid's talent in bringing him to life, becomes a sympathetic character despite being a murderer), the two have many deep discussions as they try to survive the cold. Che-Ga-Wa-Skung asks Bonga a simple question, "who are you?" Bonga doesn't really have an answer, he's always living on the boundaries, the son of an Ojibwe mother and a black father, and living the "white ways" as a fur trader. Bonga struggles with the question until the two men meet again later in life and continue the discussion. Rounding out the cast are Eric Knutson as two colleagues of Bonga's, and C.W Bearshield as Che-Ga-Wa-Skung's brother.
|Marisa Carr, Eric Knutson, and James A. Williams as Bonga|
Playwright Carlyle Brown has created a world that feels real and a story that feels relevant, specific to its time but with echos still reverberating today in the themes of race, identity, and the changing times. George Bonga: Black Voyageur continues through February 28 at the History Theatre in downtown St. Paul.