It was a very difficult experience to watch a play where the intentions were sincere yet the writing unintentionally comic. Ryan Rep's production of The Locket often induced the desire to laugh rather than feel moved or angered. What made matters worse was that the play was about the Holocaust.
Caught in Nazi Germany, the Naumann family is at the mercy of SS Officer Karl Von Hoffburg (Jesse Buckler), who is in love with Zelda Macklin (Mikaela Kafka), a ward to Mrs. Naumann (Dawn Jamieson). Karl decides to marry Zelda, much against her will and, worse, drag her around the Liebenau concentration camp dressed in minks and fine jewelry. Karl locks away Mrs. Naumann in a room in Liebenau out of harm's way with all the luxuries she was accustomed to outside the camp. One of her sons, Paul (Scott B. Thompson), escapes Germany and moves to New York with his wife, Greta (Christina Fanizzi), and later makes millions in the diamond exchange. One day Greta is approached by a representative of the Swiss Consulate (Steve Bakuras), who announces that the German government will return Mrs. Naumann if Paul hands over a hundred thousand dollars. Greta says she will consider the offer, and eventually refuses because she doesn't like her mother-in-law and dreads the idea of having her come stay with them and possibly steal her husband away.
The play, by Bernard Myers, needed more historical accuracy and greater plot simplicity. Lengthy philosophical questions about man's inhumanity to man need dramatic action to make the proceedings work — such conflicts must take place through action and not with off-stage description. And if a playwright is to write lines such as "Killing the Gretas of this world is like killing roaches" or "It's nothing o'clock," he must understand that the audience might have a hard time containing themselves, as happened here. Such laughter was unfortunate because Myers's intentions seemed so sincere that with much work he could probably write a more successful play.
Director Barbara Parisi's blocking appeared nonsensical. For instance, in the crucial moment when Greta was confronted, she was completely upstaged, which deprived the audience of the sight of her responses. The acting supplied the play with some of the sincerity that the script did not, and yet, since nothing else supported the honesty of the acting, the actions of the play became inadvertently funny.
The set by Michael Pasternack, the costumes by Paternack and Parisi, and the lighting design by Parisi were in top form. They successfully suggested reality, unlike the writing.
(Also featuring: Alex Emanuel, Zoey Zucker, Allen Lieb, Robert A. Pinter, and John Sannuto)
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Copyright 2001 Andrés J. Wrath