"Star," about a Jewish woman who helps the Nazis, is a promising effort at telling a different kind of story about the Holocaust, a subject that's hard to write about without lapsing into cliches.
By CARAID O'BRIEN
Considering the amount of extraordinary literature, theater, television and film devoted to the Holocaust over the past fifty years, it is difficult to present a new work on this topic that doesn't seem like a cliche. Samantha Star's play "Star" tells the story of Stella, a Jewish artist's model in 1940s Germany who survives the war due to her aryan good looks and willingness to expose other Jews in hiding. The play switches between its characters in the present day and their memories of the war. A Jewish-accented English differentiates the time periods; while in Germany the characters speak without an accent, an effective device in this sparsely staged production with five actors playing twenty parts.
Isaac (Walter Boscariol), an elderly survivor who had been in love with Stella in his youth opens up the play with a monologue. He is obsessed with the camps and says: "I want to hear everything Elie Wiesel has to say. I want to read Primo Levi in the original Italian." He goes on to say, "I want my grandaughter to understand that I am not just history," expressing sentiments with a distinctly modern undertone.|
As a child, Stella wants to be a Hollywood film actress and is obsessed with Marlene Dietrich. Her friends asks her: "Do they have Jewish film actresses in Hollywood?" An awareness of the Yiddish theater here, which would have existed in Germany up until the war, might have added a deeper level to this conversation. While all of the actors in the ensemble are very good, Lauren Brotman stands out particularly in her roles as Stella's young friend, a virtiolic grandmother and Stella's mother.
Swan's research into the war era is diligent, and her ocassional use of Yiddish words well placed. This is not a play about secrets as so many Holocaust dramas are; Swan's elderly characters talk freely about their experience in the camps, sometimes jarringly so. One Holocaust survivor says to her husband with a Yiddish accent after hearing him defend Stella: "I'm not going to listen to excuses for Anne Frank's fucking evil twin!" Actually, the freshest scene in the play depicts supposedly liberal-minded Germans dancing to jazz music, carefree while excusing themselves for the atrocities going on around them by saying: "I'm not that kind of German."
Last year's "Snapshot," an excellent play written by and featuring Toronto's Swan, was a hit of the 2001 New York International Festival; Swan's performance as alcoholic Aunt Sissy perfect. Incidently, Swan wrote "Star" in 1997 before "Snapshot" and it is definitely the less developed of the two plays. While not as sophisticated as her previous Fringe entry, "Star" is nevertheless a promising work well directed by Christopher Comrie and beautifully performed by Cygnet Theater Company members: Walter Boscariol, Lauren Brotman, Tom Albrecht, Sergio Gallinaro and Samantha Swan.
|AUGUST 24, 2002|
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star from Riley Bowen, Mar 10, 2003
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