2023 Capital Fringe Review: ‘Mutu Sakata: My DC Story’ by Renee Namakau Ombaba (4 stars)

Realism and camp abound in this uplifting play celebrating Black women power.

I In Mutu Sakata: My DC Story, we get an interesting mix of what it means to be human, and what it means for humanity to be amplified to the max. The story is told through the character Mutu Sakata, a young woman from Mississippi whose name means “genuinely human” in Lozi, a language spoken by the Lozi people of the area that is currently Southwestern Zambia.

Renee Namkau Ombaba, who wrote the play and plays several characters in it, stresses that the name Mutu Sakata refers to being “genuinely human” both to the self and to society.

The play breathes empowerment, resilience, and life into stories of struggle as it tells the tale of a Black woman from Mississippi who moved to DC where she must learn to navigate the city amid culture shock and mental health struggles. With a casual, welcoming community call-and-response environment, structured and performed in the vein of a Black lady sketch show, the show feels like a homecoming.

Directed with compassion by Krystal Ramseur Ali, the play has a clear, dynamically moving flow that had audiences clapping at the end of each sketch. Amplified larger-than-life sketch moments are narrated by Eva R. Lewis and Tandra T. Turner as two versions of the Mutu Sakata character who provide context grounded in realism.

Ombaba is a star, showing off a wide range of folks that Mutu Sakata encounters in DC. From a bold and powerful lawyer to a pretentious opera voice teacher, Ombaba embodies all the people who made and broke Mutu. In doing so, she reclaims Mutu’s power. The more she leans into the camp, and the more the Mutu Sakata characters delve into deeper mental health stories, the more clearly the chasm between the two styles speaks. It gets very interesting.

In the penultimate sketch where we see one of Mutu’s best friends in her lowest moment of depression, Ombaba’s character mourns: “I wish my heart had been rescued earlier.” Let this show rescue your heart and lift you up.

Running Time: 50 minutes.

Mutu Sakata: My DC Story plays July 20 at 6:30 pm, July 22 at 2:00 pm, and July 23 at 4:00 pm presented by Cookout Collective at Rind – 1025 Thomas Jefferson. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online. 

Genre: Comedy
Director: Krystal Ramseur Ali
Playwright: Renee Namakau Ombaba
Performers: Renee Namakau Ombaba, Krystal Ramseur Ali, Eva R. Lewis, Tandra T. Turner
Age appropriateness: Appropriate for Adults Only
Profanity: yes
Nudity: yes

The complete 2023 Capital Fringe Festival guidebook is online here.


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