Those of you familiar with the storefront theater, Red Twist, located in Edgewater, know that they offer “White hot drama in a tiny black box”, and do so with great style and grace. They also do this on a regular basis. They are currently offering a very provocative production of Arthur Miller’s seldom done, “Incident at Vichy”, that takes us into a French “police station” during the German occupation of World War II. This is truly a “balck box” production with very little set (if one can call black walls with benches in the middle, a set). In fact, the audience is seated on the two walls, facing each others with the actors in the center. The action, well staged by Director Ian Frank, are as close as one can be without being touched by them.
We are however touched by them- not in a physical sense (although at one point Tom Lally fell at our feet, as the Old Jew, who is hungry and tired). The all male cast has been pulled off the streets by a combination of French and German soldiers/policemen, supposedly to check their papers. The men are from different walks of life; a businessman (well played by Michael Sherman) who as it turns out is not who we think he is; an artist (Matt Browning brings great energy to this man, who believes that racial profiling has brought him here on a day when he had no plan to leave home), a waiter (deftly handled by Zach De Nardi) who knows these men who have brought him in, Bayard ( a powerful character study by David Giannini), a gypsy (Daniel Mozurkewich) who says very little but expresses a great deal of what this story is about, Leduc (a fabulous portrayal by Tim Parker), Jim Morley as the actor, Justin Burns as the boy who feels that he should be let go and a wonderful interpretation of the wealthy Von Berg by Jeremy Trager, who we usually see in musical roles. He truly captures the heart and soul of this character who turns out to be more of a hero than one would expect. Or does he?
This is a large cast with many bad guys as well. On the bad side- Jerry Bloom, Michael Bartz, Tyler Esselman, Jeremy Pfaff (a solid job) and other prisoners: Nate Speckman, Devon J. Nimerfroh, Matthew Lunt, Jeff Gamlin, William Goff and Peter Brian Kelly. Quite a large cast for a theater that has seating for roughly 44. I hope we were not in any violations of fire laws. This is a unique study in personalities and how people deal with the fears that face them. It also looks at racial profiling and how the Germans changed from peaceful people to those ready to destroy all they believed to be inferior to them (or perhaps all that were smarter than them). Miller put a line in the story that says that “everyone has his “Jew” in him”. What does this mean? It seems to mean that each of us has a fear that someone will hate, dislike or even hurt them because they are what they are, not because it is deserved. This is a very personal line in that we can all look back at incidents in our own lives and recall something that happened because of a particular incident or situation or because the people we were dealing with had different ideals and beliefs.
This production is 87 tense minutes of sheer perfection as this cast, under Frank’s solid direction makes us feel that we are also in this waiting area. Can we be next? If you are of the Jewish faith, this play will mean even more to you. How can one feel hearing that the Jews who have been loaded on the trains for the work farms, have been put into the chambers and ovens and are dead? The fear in these men shows as they debate about can they escape? Is this really a plot to find the Jews in the town? Or is the government just checking papers as a routine. Each viewer will see something that has meaning to their own lives, or that of their families. I definitely see some Jeff Awards for this one.
“Incident at Vichy” at been extended into next year and will continue at Red Twist Theatre located at 1044 West Bryn Mawr, through January 10th with performances as follows:
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 7:30 p.m.
Sundays 3 p.m.
NO PERFORMANCES on 12/24 and 12/25 Merry Christmas or 12/31 and 1/1 Happy New Year
Tickets are $30 and $35 (seniors and students $5 off).
This is a small house, so I suggest you plan ahead and call 773-728-7529 for reservations. You can also visit www.redtwist.org
There is street parking (metered )on Bryn Mawr and some on the surrounding streets. The meters/pay boxes are 3 hour max, allowing time to grab a bite as well. The Red Line Bryn Mawr station is less than a block from the theater.
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Incident at Vichy”.