A play that tackles the holocaust is never going to be uncomplicated yet Darrah Teiltel’s tale, in its world-premiere, recalling events in Auschwitz between a Nazi camp wife and a Polish Jewish prisoner is fresh, modern, entertaining and strikingly amusing. Director Bronwyn Steinberg assuredly marks out present from past with maps tile-ing the stage and characters that are vividly real. The tragedies of the past are delineated from the chaos and humour of the present; this juxtaposition deftly resonating with the truth that history never exists in a void and is forever influenced by the outsider’s perception.
Moving in flashbacks between 1940’s Poland and modern day Toronto as Genocide research student Megan (Sascha Cole) pulls the curtain back on the unconventional relationship between Eva Reiniger and Auschwitz prisoner & SonderKommander Eli. The work obsessed, overwrought and forlorn Megan defies her Professor (John Koensgen) when the mysterious Heinrich reaches out over the internet from Berlin to tell her that Reiniger survived the evacuation of the camps and is desperate to share her memories…
With actors feet apart conversations are held on video chats with screens at either end of the theatre. The sound and video design and the set are nothing short of successful. The staging and use of innovative props is stunningly evocative. Steinberg’s innovative re-positioning of the theatre and use of the full space transports the audience with her remarkable cast through time and territory.
The five cast members work together beautifully. Without overshadowing one another the presence of each was riveting. Colleen Sutton as Eva is nothing short of mesmerising as she primps in the mirror before her first Polish lesson, Eli (Eric Craig) defines enigmatic while Laurie Fyffe brings the older Eva’s fears confusion and need for confession vividly to life – these characters lingered long after the curtain dropped. Daniel Sadavoy brings humour with a nimble Baron-Cohen take on Heinrich alleviating tension yet becoming achingly vulnerable when reaching out of cyber-space to try for a literal connection.
The only perceived stumble in a remarkable production is a lag at the opening of the 2nd act where Megan’s publishing success of Eva’s survivor story is slightly drawn out and lacks the compelling transfixing quality of the rest of the play. This is but a small and even insignificant criticism of a truly excellent production which raises the bar in Ottawa’s Professional Theatre. Bravo Counterpoint Players.