A knockout cast under John Lawrence Rivera's economical direction gives a human heartbeat to Oliver Mayer's "message play" the heart being the theme of human cruelty that lies at the center of this tale about the freeing of Bantu slaves from Somali refugee camps. Though Mayer's dialogue suffers from didacticism, Anita Dashiell and Diarra Kilpatrick as two war-ravaged women, turn in fully realized performances that extend beyond the novelty of flushing a never-before-seen toilet (the gag gets old after a while). The women arrive with rich pasts, as well as a host of dreams, hopes and aspirations much to the chagrin of the usually unflappable refugee co-coordinator Mohammed (Ahmad Enani). His angry assistant Betty (Celelete Den) provides some much needed color and humor throughout the play. (The other major humorous bit comes when the Teletubbies, from one of the refugees' favorite TV shows, arrive unannounced in "person.") Mayer does deserve credit for creating the morally ambiguous Gerald (Will Dixon), whose plans for the refugees sound vague at best. Act I is entirely taut, but Act 2 trots out a number of clichés and doesn't know quite when to end. John H. Binkly's functional turntable set allows Rivera's fast-paced direction to move quickly from scene to scene. Studio/Stage, 520 N. Western Ave., Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m.; through March 29. A Playwrights Arena production. (213) 627-4473.
Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Feb. 28. Continues through March 29, 2009