In "Tales from Hollywood" the exiled writers who fled Nazi Germany form a community in Los Angelos. They're trying to write in a foreign country using a foreign language with foreign ideals and concepts. And, all the while they're trying to make sense of this cruel world and eek out an existence. Bertolt Brecht questions why he is writing for the screen when he is a playwright in a medium where there is no interaction with the audience. In an interesting use of light and sound, the creative team at The Guthrie Theater projects scenes from the play onto screens as the backdrop. So, here we have a play with elements of cinema. (See photo on my writer's blog or The Guthrie website.) Camera crew were placed in pivotal points of the stage as part of the show. It was like watching a documentary being made with Odon von Horvath as the narrator.
I connected most with the American female playwright, Helen Schwartz (played by Julia Coffey), who is Jewish and has relatives in Germany. At first, she seems distant from what is happening in Europe, but as her relationship deepens with Odon and the war progresses, she learns more and tries to make a difference. She is independent and successful.
The most tragic character, though, is Nelly Mann, married to Heinrich Mann. She struggles with her identity and her relationship with her husband. Maybe she used him, or they used each other, to get out of Germany. Maybe their relationship was more friendship than romance. Maybe Nelly had so many demons that she couldn't live in the light. Allison Daugherty plays Nelly with style and courage. I was mesmorized by her portrayal of this character who seems so broken. Daugherty gives us a glimpse of how complicated Nelly's story is and how her soul is so filled with darkness. I give her a personal standing ovation.
Ethan McSweeny has directed an outstanding show that is full of humor, surprises, and fantastic visual and sound elements. The Biker Chef accompanied me to this production. He said he connected with the show because of his personal history of German heritage and interest in military and stories of World War II. He said he'd recommend it to friends. It's a show that makes you laugh, ponder, hold your breath at moments of surprise or worry, and sigh. It contains adult themes, nudity, strong language, smoking, use of strobe lights, and is recommended for a mature audience.
Go to "Tales from Hollywood" page at www.guthrietheater.org for more photos and video clips. It is playing at the Wurtele Thrust stage through October 27, 2012.
For more on "Tales from Hollywood" and other adventures in the arts, go to my writer's blog, Play off the Page, www.maryaalgaard.blogspot.com.
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