Living in a place and time that has hierarchized its citizens according to how they look and to whom they've been born, the title characters have in many respects not only numbly accepted but also thoroughly internalized the sick logic that has conscripted their unrelentingly difficult lives. Boesman (Sahr Ngaujah, typically excellent) is brittle and angry and hard, and he regularly takes his powerlessness and frustrations out by beating his partner, Lena (Zainab Jah, remarkable). Lena's trauma manifests itself less violently than Boesman's, but it roils nonetheless: in early monologues, she takes careful count of her bruises and lists all the places she and Boesman have been forced from as a means of reminding herself of her own existence and remaining sanity. Both characters have to work awfully hard not to sink into despair, to give up, to destroy themselves or one another. When an old African man in his death throes (Thomas Silcott) arrives at their campsite, the tension between the couple spikes ever higher.
This is a deeply unsettling and moving piece of immersive theater that's not easy to sit through and that you should nevertheless try your damnedest to see. I haven't stopped thinking about how painful and dignified it is, how beautifully performed, how shattering. At curtain call of the performance I saw, an old man in the front row stood and repeatedly thanked the actors, who didn't break character as they stood for applause. I was too stunned to chant along with him, but he spoke for me just the same.