My mom and I have a partial season subscription at Arena Stage
, and Wednesday, we saw Watch on the Rhine
, part of their Lillian Hellman festival.
I didn't know anything about the play, and it was rather frighteningly timely, as it was set in 1940 and was about Americans being confronted by the reality of Nazi resistance and collaboration. There was some interesting stuff about class, and maintaining appearances, and telling the truth versus lying, and trying to force someone to be the person you wish they were.
The performances were pretty decent.
I was quite pleased to see Andrew Long as Kurt Müller, who used to do a lot of work at Shakespeare Theatre, but hasn't for the past several years, as he's reached that awkward age where you're too old for princes but not old enough for kings. (Not really. He's totally old enough to play kings.) He had sort of a thick German accent for the part, but was quite compelling and charming nonetheless.
I also really enjoyed the performances of Lise Bruneau as Sara Müller and Natalia Payne as Marthe De Brancovis. They very much gave the impression of being people, rather than roles, which most of the rest of the cast didn't quite hit. The children, particularly, were quite stage-y, but they were also laboring under German accents, and the Babette part, especially, was underwritten.
The theater we were in, the Fichandler, is a theater in the round, and in theory there aren't any bad seats, but in practice, sitting on the west side meant I looked at the back of a lot of heads during some especially tense moments.
The play itself, as I said, had to do with the problem of Nazis intruding into an idyllic American existence, and it made me think, both about how do you know, how do you choose to be aware that these fucked up things are happening, and when do you choose to do something about it? When do you choose to do something bad to stop the fucked up things from happening? If someone does a bad thing for a good reason, and you honestly had no idea that was going to happen, but it's done now, what do you do?
In the context of punching Nazis, I'm comfortable saying that you should punch a Nazi, and you should be arrested for punching Nazis. But nose-punching doesn't change anything in a general sense, whereas killing Nazis really might, but even killing a Nazi is unlikely to be one's whole mission. I don't know what I would be willing to do, really. I'm not particularly brave or physical, I find it very difficult to believe I'd be successful at killing a Nazi, even if that seemed like the most appropriate course of action. At the moment I'm giving a fair bit of money and I'm sometimes making phone calls, but if I can only sometimes get it together to make a phone call, am I really of any use?
Anyway, I highly recommend going to see the play if you're someplace near a production.