Question: How awesome is it when 3 college kids play a whole host of characters working magic one of the best political plays in the last quarter of a century?
Answer: Pretty damned Awesome.
Question: Can a country make up for genocide? (Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this).
Answer: Don’t know, but at this point in America, a game plan might be in order, making director Cory Ryan Frank’s choice for this show rather unfortunately ideal. For now, the answer to theatre goers is to go ask Israel Horovitz, the playwright, who in 1997, attempted an answer by writing Lebensraum.Question: But what is Lebensraum?Answer: The word literally translates into English as ‘living space’ and during the Third Reich carried with it extreme anti-Semitic overtones. In plot, it is part of the conceit proposed in the play’s first scene: an open invitation from Germany to Jews across the world to relocate to Germany and reclaim land or the Lebensraum that was at one point theirs. And so the world-wide reclamation of both the land and language becomes of extreme importance to the Jews in the play.
Question: What Jews would want to return back Germany?
Answer: According to Horovitz, all sorts of people embodied in the following characters: a modern day working class American family the Linsky’s; married florist Frenchmen; a Holocaust survivor relocated to Australia after the war, who in a jarring and disquieting turn of events becomes the caretaker for the person that turned his family over the Nazi’s; Israelis who wish to prevent a second Holocaust.
Question: Isn’t the cast huge?
Answer: Not. At. All. The 3 actors in the show play all of the characters, never leaving the stage, using only naturalistic props and neutral costumes that all serve a tour-de-force production. The performances are uniformly strong, and each have their own shining moments. Actor Sarah Shook conveys a maturity confused in Lizzie Linsky, a wife who isn’t sure if Germany is the place for her to be at her husband’s side; Chase Helton’s sincere and empathetic takes on his characters renders sharpest with Holocaust survivor Maximillian Zylberstein; and David Olson and his versatile vocals aided his German characters, but I have to say, his turn as the contemplative teen Sammy Linsky melted me a bit. And the magic of this show is that before a scene can lag, the actors have changed roles again.
Question: Is everyone happy about said proposal to make amends?
Answer: Of course not! Not in political life, and not on this stage at Studio. That’s what’s called Hegelian conflict, and is what lets the play cook. On that note, the violence arising from the play was stuff of good old fashioned illusion. Streamers and confetti marked the blood of characters, weighing heavily in my own imagination as they fluttered to the floor. And to boot, the lighting designers Jessica Wallace and Kristina Herne, used the piece’s gallop-paced structure making all transitions crisp.
Question: But in tone, doesn’t the show get preachy?
Answer: Not really, unless you believe that Nie Wieder (never again) is too much. Because until Nie Wieder becomes more than a theatrical reality, what we have to build from is art like Horovitz and (hopefully) more productions like this.
- Running Time: 90 minutes
- Tickets: Lebensraum
- Remaining Shows: Wed, July 23 at 6:30 . Fri, July 25 at 10 . Sat, July 26 at 2
- Where: Studio Theatre – Stage 4, 1501 14th Street, NW