note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Beverly Creasey
A work of art which assumes the heavy burden of portraying the Holocaust must convey the weight of the horror or it fails in its mission. There are a number of plays which fail. They're simply too slight to bear witness. The most exquisitely beautiful/horrible/painful theater piece on the subject is Double Edge Theatre's "Song of Absence (In The Ashen Reign)" which played in Boston for several years before Double Edge relocated to a farm in Ashland for theater research. They still perform it there from time to time.
Brian Silberman's "Manifest" (which won the Clauder), and the Theater Coop's searing production of his material, elicit a stunning silence from its audience --- a tribute to the intensity of the production. Although Silberman presents the three dozen small vignettes in disjointed fashion --- introduced by title-cards as if this were vaudeville --- the mind will connect the stories into their logical order...and the mind will hope against hope that these vivid characters will escape the camps. Such is the power of the writing and such is the power of the mind.
Director Leslie Chapman's cast may be young --- too young to have parents or even grandparents who survived the camps --- but their performances carry the emotion of four times their ages: Chapman's taut ensemble of actors gives voice to the unspeakable, the unbearable and the indomitable. Silberman's message is about the spirit to live, to resist, to reclaim. When you hear Edith Piaf singing "Je Regrette Rien" (I regret nothing) at the intermission break, you know she regretted everything while at the same time she soldiered on, vowing to resist and not to regret. What an anthem for Silberman's astonishing play.
And what a production for his material. Each actor made you feel what no one should have to feel...and isn't that what great art us all about: to bear witness and reach out intro the darkness.