EAST OF BERLIN
Dalliance Theatre Collective, Havana Theatre, until December 1
My Two Cents
Hannah Moscovitch’s East Of Berlin is a difficult play to unpack. It concerns the life of Rudi, a young German man who discovers that his father, a Nazi, performed atrocities on Jewish prisoners at Auschwitz. The Holocaust, intergenerational trauma, guilt, human monstrosity, parent-child relationships, and the search for atonement are all at play here. For the most part it's riveting.
Much of the play is told by Rudi in monologue, directly to the audience. It takes a bit of getting used to, but luckily Alexander Lowe, who plays Rudi, is a captivating and affable performer. The showiness quickly subsides as Lowe gets into the groove of the story and once we get drawn in, we’re along for the ride whether we like it or not. The overuse of “tell” rather than “show” works because Lowe is a great storyteller with an excellent sense of timing, and Moscovitch's writing feels accessible. There’s more humour here than you might expect, which Lowe uses to diffuse tension to great effect. Credit must go to director Allyson Fournier for finding just the right balance between dark comedy and the tragic situations.
Simon Paterson portrays Hermann, Rudi’s childhood “friend”, with smooth confidence. Paterson’s mellow voice and composed, quiet menace contrast well with Lowe’s jittery energy. Geneva Perkins is also solid as Sarah, but she shows up so late in the proceedings I felt I didn’t get to know her as well as I would have liked - the pace really picks up once she gets on the scene. I also appreciated how the romantic scenes felt earnest and unforced, not to mention shockingly intimate. All three performers had such clear, keen handles on their characters that I could feel the play shift in tone depending on who was on stage.
The Havana is small, but it works for the intimacy of the piece. There’s not much to say about the set (it was there), though there is some clever and seamless use of props (that cigarette!). But the strength of Dalliance Theatre Collective is very clearly in the talent of their performers and director, examining weighty issues with the grace of professionals. East Of Berlin asks a lot of its audience, and never supplies easy answers, but that’s because there are none. We can only listen to the stories and hope we learn from them.