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Lebensraum explores unconventional hypothetical

Posted By Connie Gong On November 2, 2010 @ 4:20 am In Arts and Entertainment | Comments Disabled

Lebensraum, literally “living space, was a major component of Nazi ideology.
Formulated by Adolf Hitler, this political idea served as motivation for the expansionist policies of Nazi Germany, aiming to provide more land for the German people and encourage the growth of the German nation.
Confronting a sensitive and emotionally charged subject matter, the play Lebensraum is powerful and compelling.
It considers the complex and contradictory feelings surrounding the Holocaust and its aftermath.
Though Lebensraum takes its name from the Nazi policy, it uses the moniker ironically.
The play begins with a proclamation by Rudolph Stroiber, chancellor of Germany. The chancellor extends an open invitation to six million Jews from all around the world, inviting them to with full citizenship and privileges. Stroiber seeks to atone for the atrocities committed by the Nazis during World War II.
Stroiber’s announcement is met with both joy and anger. An old woman curses the Nazis and vows never to forget.
An old Australian man considers returning to the home he has not seen since he was a boy. A planted actor rises from the middle of the audience to cry “Heil Hitler!
Black-shrouded actors storm in from the back of the auditorium to beat the Nazi-sympathizer to death.
He is left in the middle of a silent stage, a river of blood flowing from his skull in the form of a long, red handkerchief.
We are abruptly introduced several intertwined story lines. Over 50 characters and narrators are portrayed by 22 black-clad actors, who slip in and out of character by donning sweaters, hats, scarves and jackets.
The stage cues are clever, fluid, and initially confusing. The narrators, speaking directly to the audience, introduce a myriad of characters with only a few lines each.
But as the play narrows in on a few, major storylines, several characters become easily recognizable by distinguishing costume pieces.
The first Jews to arrive for the internationally televised Project Homecoming are a pair of flamboyant, gay Frenchmen (Daniel Bender Stern and Raphael Kasobel).
They are quickly carted off for the sake of appearances. The world is introduced to the Linskys, an all-American, half-Jewish, working class family from Boston.
Mike Linsky (Jake Light), is an out-of-work dock worker with a penchant for jean jackets and a thirst for adventure. His wife, Lizzy (Sarah Wanger) is a cheerful home-maker; their son, Sammy (Sam Dorfman), just wants to go back to America.
Mike Linsky, poster-boy for Project Homecoming, gets promoted quickly through the ranks at his new dock job, and is proclaimed a major success. However, not everyone is happy with this turn of events. Resentment grows from native-born Germans who are pushed from their jobs as new Jews are welcomed to the country. Gustav Geisling (Conrad Buys), is fired from his foreman position and organizes other dock workers to strike, protesting the rapid influx of Jews into the country.
Meanwhile, Max Zylberstein (Allegra Borak), a Holocaust survivor who has been living in Australia for over 60 years, also takes the invitation to return to Germany.
Returning to Berlin, he tracks down the woman who turned his family in to the police, now bedridden and unable to speak.
Instead of killing her, he has himself hired as her caretaker and merely sits by her bed every single day, inflicting a painfully exquisite torture by virtue of his presence.
Max Zylberstein is compellingly portrayed by Allegra Borak, whose mannerisms are nuanced and riveting. The portrayal of the sinister yet piteous Zylberstein is haunting.
Back in the Geisling household, Gustav’s teenage daughter Anna (Madeline Schulman) is slowly gaining awareness of how Germany is viewed by the world, for the apparent complicity of ordinary citizens during the Holocaust.
In a not-unpredictable twist, Anna Geisling and Sammy Linsky fall in love, in spite of polarizing cultural differences.
Anna teaches Sammy German; Sammy introduces Anna to the American notions of love. The romance between the two teens is endearingly portrayed by Dorfman and Schulman. They are both likeable and charming as two fresh-faced teenagers, in love for the first time.As the relationship between the star-crossed lovers blossoms, so does the tension between Jewish and German workers.
As the play reaches its climax, a violent standoff between dock workers arises just as Anna and Sammy are having a romantic moment alone across the water. Anna is shot by a stray bullet.
The standoff across the stage quickly dissolves, and again we are left with a silence stage. This time, it is a young girl lying alone beneath the spotlight, red handkerchief streaming from her hair.
The storylines are quickly raveled up after Anna’s death. Zylberstein’s ward dies, and he too passes away. Project Homecoming fades from the front page. At Anna’s funeral, the actors come forward one by one, paying their respects by dropping white roses on her grave.
As they run out of flowers, they shed their characters, dropping the costumes in the pile at center stage.
The pile grows and the lights dim. Slowly, a whispered refrain is taken up by all the actors, slowly growing in strength and volume.
A single, flickering candle is brought to stage center.
The play ends with actors linking hands, the chanting growing to a fever pitch: “Never again. Never again. NEVER AGAIN.

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URL to article: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/11/02/lebensraum-explores-unconventional-hypothetical/

URLs in this post:

[1] Countering Stereotypes: Germany: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/11/02/countering-stereotypes-germany/

[2] Film Review: A Film Unfinished: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2010/10/28/jamie-rinaldi-%e2%80%94-history-and-social-sciences/

[3] Student directed one-acts are ACTually amazing: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/05/13/student-directed-one-acts-are-actually-amazing/

[4] Art Focus: Justin Danforth: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2007/10/25/art-focus-justin-danforth/

[5] So you think you can improv with the next top show?: http://www.denebolaonline.net/2009/10/21/so-you-think-you-can-improv-with-the-next-top-show/

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