His/her arrival was much anticipated. With make-up caked on to effect a round-eyed cupie doll lip pucker face, wig of platinum blond curls, black stockings tied in knots at knee on relative tree-trunk legs and a hirsute torso emerging from a low-cut bodice, actor Jay Torrence doesn’t need to do much more to make you laugh. But he does….
He/she is Leni Riefenstahl, the Nazi film propagandist who never owned up to her complicity with Hitler. Torrence makes his/her every gesture, and especially this slow strut entrance as if on a fashion runway uber-comical. Playwright Rhea Leman’s Yiddish-peppered lines help too, for example when Torrence recounts his/her recent fun shtupping all the soldiers he/she met along the way.
Two Clowns – Goebbels and Riefenstahl
He/she is in a bunker of sorts with Dr. Joseph Goebbels played by Amy Gorelow. For the prior half hour or so Gorelow had been holding court, including in the moment improv, as she renders a paranoid Goebbels squirrelling about—at one moment cherishing pictures of her/his children, Hitler memorabilia, leading us in singalong, holding signs to explain propaganda and how to manipulate the masses. Every once and again she/he gets transfixed to a hip Berlin music radio broadcast. This is a role that won her Danish equivalent Denmark’s top award for Best Leading Actress.
Props and Set Fit for Clowns
It would be a spoiler to describe the many imaginative props and set elements with which these two clowns play—
Set Design: Chad Eric Bergman;
Costume Design: Piper Hubbell Robinson;
Properties Design: Letitia Guillaud).
The parade of gags is delightful.
Mainly though, it’s the clowning around that is the glue that keeps you engaged. Nazis haven’t been this much fun since Springtime with Hitler in Germany. For this writer, Goebbels solo did begin to bog down after a bit, but perhaps that help makes Leni Reifenstahl’s entrance all the more fun.
Akvavit Theatre Responds to the politics of our time
In a talk-back with the playwright and co-directors Kirstin Franklin and Amber Robinson, we learned that Akvavit Theatre was prompted to shuffle its season plans to respond to the politics of our day. When they came across the script for Hitler on the Roof they knew they hit pay dirt.
Indeed, this production may go a long way for many of us in reminding that Angela Merkel’s expression when the Donald refused to shake her hand was not unlike the one you remember of a child being handed a bouquet of wilting flowers by Bozo. It’s a tall order though for this playwright, House of Cards script writers or any artist to top the surrealism of the nightly news broadcast. That said, this is an imaginative and fun performance chock full of serendipity-fueled laughs—a winning recipe made to order for trying times.
Here is a video trailer---
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.