Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Kindertransport"

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note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


by Diane Samuels
Directed by Nancy Curran Willis

Set Design by Jason Benagh
Lighting Design by Ken Lord
Costume Design by Anna Bruce
Sound Design by Max McLean
Make-up Design by James Lynch
Accent Coach Reinhold Mahler
Choreographer Jean E. Pendergrass
Producer Robert Hallisey
Stage Manager Judy Forgione

Ratcatcher........................John Nuquist
Eva..........................................Siri Bird
Helga........................Margaret McCarty
Evelyn.............................Sharon Mason
Faith................................Holly Vanasse
Lil...................................Carole Daniels

Director Nancy Curran Willis is proud of coming out of a background as a theater techie, and so it's no surprise that the crew she assembled for the Winchester Players' production of "Kindertransport" contributed a realistically unfinished attic room (Set Design by Jason Benagh), softly lit in areas that made for smooth transitions from present to past (Ken Lord), carefully well-chosen music (Max MacLean), and even Costumes (Anna Bruce) and Make-up (James Lynch) that contribute tellingly if subliminally to the total effect. But that total effect is to meld and mold the carefully chosen cast of six excellent actors into a seamless, engrossing reading of Diane Samuels' script wherein every nuance is perfectly tuned.

The five women who play them are as uniquely different as the characters they play, and that makes their interactions all the more vibrant. Young Siri Bird has the pivotal role of a girl who at nine is sent out of Germany to the safety of London, leaving her German-Jewish mother (Margaret McCarty) for a no-nonsense English surrogate mother (Carol Daniels). Then, when united with her widowed mother at sixteen, after the silence enforced by mother's harrowing stay in the death-camps, she turns back on her mother her feelings of rejection, having turned herself by then into a coldly independent English girl.

The conflict of the play begins when this woman's grown daughter (Holly Vanasse) stumbles upon letters, photos and doctuments about the German-Jewish past hidden in the attic and demands of her unwilling mother (Sharon Mason) a full accounting. Scenes from that past flow through her mind --- often with the current "Evelyn" intently witnessing young "Eva's" experiences --- while the woman fights that daughter in a futile attempt to reject her past. As Bird enacts the past, Daniels often moves from present to past with a shrug into a green jacket as the lights dissolve time. In the moody light of past memory and current conflict, the permanent pain of the holacaust leaves permanent scars.

Perhaps the saddest edge to this completely realized human experience is that everyone acts out of genuine love that is achingly real in every portrayal, every touch, and every conflict.

It falls to Jon Nuquist to become a succession of men --- a suspicious Nazi policeman, a harried English greeter, a postman, a German-hating railroad official (none of whom take the time to be civil) --- and also the symbolic figure out of a children's book called "The Ratcatcher" which is an all but unseen shadow at the edges of memory insidiously haunting Evelyn's mind as she sits, troubled and alone, in the play's opening and closing scenes.

The pace and concentration on every hand in this production give every word, every gesture, every posture significance and emotional weight, and every character changes and evolves honestly, compellingly. This "amateur" production is a perfect example of the excellence of which community theater is capable.

"Kindertransport" (till 12 November)
Winchester Unitarian Church, 478 Main St. (corner Mystic Valley Parkway),WINCHESTER

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide