Volume 93, Issue 48

Wednesday, November 24, 1999


Bringing their northern touch

Sleepy Hollow confused as a headless chicken

Kinder too slow and depressing

Ancient unmasks too much horror

Kinder too slow and depressing

By Stephanie Truscott
Gazette Staff

In 1939, as dictated by the kindertransport movement, many Jewish children were placed on trains, taken out of Germany to various parts of Europe and placed in the care of families who would look after them until their parents could join them in safety. Playwright Diane Samuels wrote this play, currently showing at the Old Factory Theatre, in 1967 based on her experiences as a daughter of the kindertransport.

The main character in this play is eight year-old Eva, who unwillingly leaves Germany, her mother and her Jewish heritage behind when she is placed in the care of Mrs. Miller, a kind, religious woman from Manchester. After discovering her natural mother has perished in Auschwitz, Eva uses assimilation as a means of dealing with the pain. She sells her mother's jewelry, changes her name to the more British sounding Evelyn, calls Mrs. Miller "mother" and she evens gets baptized.

Flash forward 30 years to the 1960s where an adult Evelyn and her college-aged daughter, Faith, are sorting through the attic and unwittingly open a Pandora's box of suppressed emotions, when they come across some of Evelyn's old mementos. The uncovering of these old relics lead Faith to question Evelyn about their origin and her past.

This is a very serious, slow and above all, depressing play. Samuels should be commended for writing about kindertransports and all the issues surrounding such a topic, but they are simply too numerous and complex to examine thoroughly in a two hour show.

That said, Samuels does an admirable job examining things such as cultural assimilation and religious extermination while raising many important questions about who is to blame. Unfortunately, the audience is left without a feeling of resolution, but rather unsatisfied, burdened and depressed by the end of the play.

There are a couple major problems which really hindered this production. The first involves casting. The adult Evelyn (Sheila Patterson) looks the same age as Mrs. Miller (April Chappell) which is ridiculous considering Mrs. Miller supposedly adopted Evelyn/Eva when she was eight years old.

Another problem is the focal character in this play (young Eva) is played by an actress who is of a different nationality. Suspension of disbelief is one thing, but it is extremely difficult to immerse yourself in the story under such circumstances. Even though Amanda Musto (Eva) had a great German accent and is an amazing performer who will no doubt have a successful career in acting, this is stretching the boundaries of believability.

Another fault with this play is the slow pace during which the events unfold. This is especially apparent in the scenes involving Faith (Ann Denny) and Evelyn. Although Patterson pulls off a convincing performance which looked natural and believable, Denny has no concept of body movement, voice inflection or facial expression. Even during scenes which depict intense and heated arguments, her arms remain pinned to her sides.

Despite its problems, the play is intelligently written and does contain some strong performances. Unfortunately, its slow pace, depressing theme and unsatisfactory ending will leave you wishing for your money back.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999