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A CurtainUp Review
All Through the Night
As a critic I feel committed to stay the course even if a play is in danger of not improving after its intermission. However, playwright Shirley Lauro, in an attempt to paint a true portrait of Gentile German women caught up in the Hitler period, has cooked up a mix of surrealism and realism, that had me headed for the exit after a tedious first hour. With a vaudeville-like narrator to lead us through the women's stories as if this were a tragi-comical Brothers Grimm fairy tale, this is a possibly interesting concept gone horribly wrong. Given my own German Jewish background with relatives who were Holocaust victims, I found it not only messy, bad theater but offensive.
From bottom clockwise: Lesley McBurney, Hana Kalinski, Theo Allyn, Andrea Sooch and Michelle Lookadoo
(Photo: Nathan Johnson)
It begins with the peasant woman Ludmilla, our master of ceremonies and tour guide through Hitler's world gone mad, begging for our attention: "So? You listening? Gut! Gut! Well, then — once upon a time, a long, long time ago, there lived, on top of the mountain there a mean old man. Und he had his league up there with him too. Und nobody knew exactly how he got up there so quick und so high. All we knew was one day we was looking up — und there he was! Und there was his league in addition! Und he was looking down on us --
watching every thing we was doing. Und then? He started in mit his rules. Und we couldn't do this und we couldn't do that — und we had to do this und we had to do that! Until pretty soon we couldn't do any things hardly what we wanted! Und his gang? They was total in control making them rules happen! Und everybody was ascared."
Ludmilla goes on and on and reappears again and again with her fairy tale treatment of horrendous events.
I went to see this play since I heard it was based on interviews with actual women who lived through this period, including Irene Gut Opdyke, the heroine of Tovah Feldshuh's moving Irena's Vow. However, I felt no connection to any of these characters and by the time Ludmilla has taken us past the play's central characters' school days, it's clear who was going to retain a semblance of decency in this period of a world gone mad, and who's going to help the Fuehrer maintain order in his death camps. The poor direction, staging, acting and all over the map accents of this production didn't help to keep me from my intermission escape.
When Lauro's play ran in Chicago it was nominated for a Jefferson Award, so maybe you want to see for yourself whether you agree with the more positive Chicago critics rather than my own thumbs down take on half of Lauro's ill-conceived, poorly executed fairy tale treatment of horrendous events.
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All Through The Night|
Play by Shirley Lauro
Directed by Melanie Moyer Williams
Cast: Theo Allyn (Gretchen), Hana Kalinski (Angelika), Michelle Lookadoo (Friederike), Lesley McBurney (Ludmilla) and Andrea Sooch (The Fraus)
Scenery: Adrienne Kapalko
Costumes: Emily DeAngelis
Lighting: Jessica Greenberg
Red Fern Theatre Company at Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater 5 West 64th Street at Central Park West 212-352-3101.
Wednesday through Saturday evenings at 8PM with Sunday Matinees at 3PM.
Tickets are $25. . From 10/02/09; opening 10/05/09; closing 10/25/09
Reviewed by Elyse Sommer 10/05 press performance
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