Open: 06/21/14- Close: 06/22/14
Welcome To Terezin|
Reviewed for TheaterOnline.com By: Heather Violanti
Welcome to Terezin, the final play in this year’s New Plays for Young Audiences series of staged readings at NYU Steinhardt, focuses on the Red Cross visit to Terezin concentration camp in 1944. Before the visit, the Nazis began what they called a “beautification program,” sending thousands of the weakest and sickest prisoners to Auschwitz and building fake shopfronts and gardens to create an illusion of decent living conditions.
Playwright Philip Glassborow focuses on the prisoners’ efforts to subvert the Nazis’ propaganda as they are forced to perform a cabaret for the visiting officials and shoot a film about how “humane” conditions are at the hellish camp. Using original songs and folk music, Glassborow crafts a harrowing and heartbreaking story based on real-life events. The play features a large ensemble that portrays a cross-section of prisoners and guards, from young children frightened of disobeying the Nazis to the old men forced to act as the “council of elders” that reluctantly follows Nazi commands. One character that stands out is the optimistic, doomed actor/director Kurt Gerron, who was forced into directing the cabaret and propaganda film—only to be sent to Auschwitz and gassed after filming was completed.
The cabaret and film scenes bristle with double-edged wit as the prisoners outwit the Nazis (but can’t always outwit death), while there are poignant moments of resilience in the face of suffering (as when a child comforts her mother as they are sent on a train to Auschwitz). This is still a play in progress, and the piece is still finding its form—it can’t quite decide if it wants to be a musical, with songs advancing plot and character, or a play with music, with songs complementing but not necessarily driving the scenes. It also wobbles around a central framing device—is this the story of Terezin as told to us by the prisoners, or the cabaret they are performing for the Red Cross, or the film they are shooting under duress—it’s not quite clear how the story is organized. Still, it is a powerful, moving work. Glassborow’s radio background shows in the way scenes melt seamlessly into one another, and in how a scene can be established through vivid dialogue alone (as in the memorable scene between mother and daughter on the train to Auschwitz).
Provincetown Playhouse : 133 MacDougal Street