Last night I took in East of Berlin by Hannah Moscovitch at C103 presented by Punctuate Theatre and East/West Collective. It was simply terrific. It's hard to say anything but that. It was one of the best shows I have seen this season, and I have seen a lot of shows and a lot of good shows. It's described as a dark comedy and it is that, though I would rather say I was a dark portrait of life which at times makes you laugh and at times makes you gasp and at times makes you sad (whether you cry or not will depend on you - but I heard plenty of sniffles).
The play focuses on the legacy of the Holocaust on the children of those involved. The main character is Rudi (Jamie Cavanagh) the son of a Nazi war criminal who grows up in Paraguay. After finding out disturbing details about his father's activities during the war from a friend, Herman (Mathew Hulshof), he eventually travels to Berlin and meets Sarah (Andréa Jorawsky) the daughter of an Auschwitz survivor. What happens is wonderful, joyful and inevitably doomed.
Cavanagh is electric. He has a natural charisma that is near impossible to be immune to. We go through his journey of discovery along with him. He brings us in. Rudi spends a great deal of time talking directly to the audience, and as one of my friends said afterward, it was as though he was speaking directly to each and everyone of us. You truly feel that this was his story. Hulshof and Jorawsky are equal to the task of being a part of this story. This is an ensemble with no weaknesses. You believe them. A friend of mine, who saw the show the night before, told me, "I didn't want it to end." But of course, it had to.
Directed by Simon Bloom, this piece is perfectly paced and staged. It has an emotional resonance in all the right places and taps into everyday humour and a kind of irreverence to soften the underlying horror that comes with anything that deals with the holocaust. Under Bloom's guidance, the three actors achieve a sense of real that is mesmerizing. The set (Nicholas Blais), with it's multitude of scorched and dirtied file cabinets is a monument to both the bureaucracy and record-keeping of the Nazis and the hidden dirty secrets of generations before us.
After the show, I spent a good deal of time talking about it with my friends. This is the kind of show that stays with you. I woke up this morning thinking about it. There are four more performances - one tonight, 2 on Sunday, and one on Monday evening. I strongly encourage you to go to it.
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