Ethnic Theater - Jewish
"All Through the Night"
Little Theatre, Manhattan
Over the years the history of the Holocaust (in terms of personal experiences) has been thoroughly researched and publicized—thanks to the efforts of Eli Wiesel, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and other enlightened activists. But those efforts, quite naturally, have focused on the Jewish victims, who indeed bore the brunt of Nazi atrocities.
But another segment of the German population was also victimized by the Nazis—some Gentile German women. It is understandable that most of us—particularly we Jews—have given little, if any, thought to these women.
But now playwright Shirley Lauro takes a hard look at such women in “All Through the Night.” It proves to be a formidable and very worthy topic. Culled from actual interviews, Lauro has created an Expressionistic pieces that digs into the hearts and minds of such women.
Moving back and forth in time, Lauro takes on four women—from their childhood years to adulthood, as the Nazi regime takes over. Ludmilla (played by Leslie McBurney), who is a down-to-earth peasant type, serves as Narrator, commenting on her own and the other experiences. Gretchen (Theo Allyn) is a poor girl, eager to get on in life, who grows steadily tougher as she rises in the Nazi hierarchy. Angelika (Hana Kalinski) is a naïve adolescent, hoping to become a nurse, who grows stronger as she manages to oppose the regime. Friederike (Michelle Lookadoo) is a high-spirited adolescent of privileged background, who ultimately survives as a dissenter. Hovering menacingly over all four women is a series of high-ranking women Nazis (all played by Andrea Sooch).
All their stories carry a degree of horror, as one realizes that they are locked into the Fascist system. Although the play’s Expressionist format tends to be confusing, Lauro has etched a series of deeply moving incidents. In the hands of these competent actors, the characters come alive. Highlights are the deaths, captures, betrayals—all focusing on the women and their children.
However, a more effective production would give greater credence to the piece. The Red Fern Theatre Company, with apparently limited resources, does not create a stage set with a strong, convincing sense of place. Moreover, the carefully-learned German accents are so thick that much dialogue is lost. This, unfortunately, is particularly true of Leslie McBurney’s Narrator.
All told, one would like to see this unusual play given a stronger, more effective production. Since “All Throug the Night” won a Jefferson Award Nomination in Chicago for “Best New Play,” one would hope that there is a future for Shirley Lauro’s worthy drama.
-- Irene Backalenick
Oct. 8, 2009