June 27, 2017
It’s always been difficult to reconcile the savagery of the Third Reich with the party members’ passion for the fine arts. So in a warped twist, exceptionally talented Jewish artists could barter their talent for their lives during Hitler’s death grip on Europe. In “Terezin” (influenced by “The Terezin Diary of Gonda Redlich) this theme is re-worked around two talented families struggling to stay together in the face of impending annihilation.
In the new drama written and energetically directed by Nicholas Tolkien and produced by the Steinberg Theater Group at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater, the Holocaust is once again examined through the eyes of a young girl seeking sanity in a logically mute situation.
When Violet (Shasha K. Gordon) witnesses the cruel death of her parents at the hands of the Gestapo she’s embraced by neighbors including the mother, Isabella (Sophia Davey), a famous violinist. Violet and Isabella’s daughter Alexi (Natasa Petrovi) –an equally talented violinist—become inseparable.
Inevitably, throughout “Terezin” counterfeit people and situations are revealed. After the emotionally conflicted Commander Karl Rahm (Michael Leigh) carts the family to the new camp “Terezin,” he forces Isabella to teach him to play the violin. He’s awful, stiff and unable to reach his soul and Isabella dies soon after her arrival. But the Commander has much more in store for the families, and in particular, the two young girls.
Part of the drama reveals the duplicitous tactics of the Nazis in faking-out the international community. For instance, the Nazis camouflaged the slave labor and poor conditions of Terzin by fabricating a make-believe utopian camp. Built like film set, everyone (and remember, many are prominent artists or all disciplines) are marshaled to create a family-friendly community filled with parks and happy families. It was a “Potemkin”—a fake site designed to deceive the Red Cross. And in that, they succeeded.
Just as the camp was really just smoke and mirrors, Anna Driftmier and lighting designer Katy Jarzebowski built the simple, flexible and evocative set around shadows and sticks.
A fine cast expends vast sums of energy in this tale of human resilience.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis