As a middle-aged American academic who desperately needs to publish a book in order to gain tenure, Jack Exley leaps at the chance to go to Rwanda to write about his old college classmate Dr. Joseph Gasana, who has in the intervening years has specialized in treating children stricken by AIDS. But when Jack, along with his African-American second wife, Linda, and his disaffected teenage son, Geoffrey, arrive in Kigali in the fall of 1994, they are not only unable to find Joseph, they are unable to find anyone who will even admit to having known the Tutsi doctor. Befriended by both a cynical American diplomat and a perhaps too-helpful Hutu political powerbroker, Jack and his family slowly, then urgently, become enmeshed in the tension and terror, the professional risks and personal betrayals, that they ultimately realize mark the start of a genocidal war—a horror that they can sense but cannot comprehend or control.
In The Overwhelming, J.T. Rogers has written a play that is both a brilliantly crafted piece of writing and a tense, suspenseful exploration of one of the great human tragedies of our time. It will have its U.S. premiere off-Broadway in November 2007.