“All Jews are dogs!” barks the Nazi Major into the ear of the old Jew seated on the bench who is awaiting interrogation and having his identification papers checked along with nine other men who have been picked up randomly on the streets of Vichy, a “safe zone” 1942 – during the German occupation of France. It grabs your attention. Or is it that attention must be paid? For there are still too many who hate “the other”- the person who is not them.
In this searing indictment of the Nazi regime and subsequent Holocaust, written in 1964 by Arthur Miller and not seen in New York for nearly thirty years, The Actor’s Company Theatre/TACT has assembled a first rate ensemble cast that has you sitting on the edge of your seat awaiting, along with them, who will be released and who will be sent off to the furnaces in Poland to be exterminated and not, as they are being told, to work. It’s a brutal reminder of what happened and a warning for it to never happen again.
On the long bench in the “detention center” sit a cross section of the men living in Vichy: a painter, an electrician, an actor, businessman, aristocrat, gypsy, waiter, psychiatrist, a boy of fifteen and an old Jew. Do they have forged papers? Are they Jewish or Gentile? Will one or more escape? Were all their noses measured? Will they have to expose their private parts to see who is circumcised?
Miller has them all waiting and worrying, discussing with each other what has brought them all to this point in their lives and what repercussions will follow. It is a frightening experience. None more than when the young boy wants to have the Prince take his mother’s wedding ring back to her and he is all but dragged into the interrogation room where we can see through an opaque glass in shadow and hear the laughter of the Nazi’s as they have their fun with their detainees.
A chilling opening by director Scott Alan Evans with ominous, eerie music by Joseph Trapanese sets the mood precisely. The set by Scott Bradley, costumes by David Toser and lighting by Mary Louise Geiger couldn’t be more perfect. The ensemble cast is exceptional. You won’t forget a single one of them: TACT company members – Jamie Bennett, Richard Ferrone, Todd Gearhart, Jack Koenig, Ron McClary, James Prendergast and Gregory Salata. Guest artists: Mark Alhadeff, Christopher Burns, Jeffrey Hawkins, Leif Huckman, Russell Kahn, Michael Oberholtzer and Dan Stowell.
You can literally feel the danger.