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Off-Broadway Review: “Hitler’s Tasters” at IRT Theater (Through Saturday October 27, 2018)

Photo: Kaitlin Paige Longoria, MaryKathryn Kopp, and Hallie Griffin in ‘Hitler’s Tasters.” Credit: Hunter Canning.
Off-Broadway Review: “Hitler’s Tasters” at IRT Theater (Through Saturday October 27, 2018)
By Michelle Kholos Brooks
Directed by Sarah Norris
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

Kudos to the team of women (all women!) that wrote, directed, performed in, and filled all positions in the creative team for “Hitler’s Tasters” currently running at IRT Theater. The play examines the conflicts of the fifteen German young women who were conscripted to be Hitler’s tasters. They were initially transported daily to and from a school to fulfill their task of “defending the Motherland.” After a threat on Hitler’s life, they were permanently confined in a building adjacent to Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair headquarters in Prussia. The sole real-life survivor of this group of young women Margot Woelk has documented this “footnote in history” extensively before her death in 2014.

Although the young women (Hallie Griffin, MaryKathryn Kopp, Kaitlin Paige Longoria, and Hannah Mae Sturges) are dressed in period clothing – there are several costume changes – they have cell phones, take selfies, like contemporary music (Madonna), imagine Hitler sings like a “rock star,” and behave in a thoroughly modern way. They bicker about the vegetarian food, the lack of visits from the Führer and his German Shepherd Blondi, and often behave much like “mean girls.” Although their behavior seems contemporary, their weltanschauung is decidedly Deutschland. Their conversations are sprinkled with anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and anti-American sentiments.

The ensemble cast latches onto Michelle Kholos Brooks’s script with passionate zeal and each member delivers authentic and believable performances. Unfortunately, the script does not afford them the freedom to explore their characters more deeply. The audience get a sense of what these young women think and feel about tasting food for Hitler and then waiting an hour to see if they will die or not; however, there is no deep angst here, no existential fear, no sense of deep loss. Tasters come and go without much dread or disconsolation. The playwright’s choice to develop the conflicts of the young women through and anachronistic lens might diminish the cathartic experience in the dramatic arc.

The connections between time periods is obvious and quite impactful. Sexism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and abuse (sexual, physical, and psychological) continue into the present as does imperialism, white supremacy, and oligarchy. Some choices made by director Sarah Norris seem to diminish the striking parallelism between the present and the pre and postwar Germany. Why isn’t the playwright’s idea of the back of the guard utilized? Having one of the cast members portray the intrusiveness of a male would be more powerful than sound and light indicating the presence of the guards. And why is another young woman thrown into the room at the end of the play? This is not included in the script. It is apparent that past and present not only conspire to repeat dysfunction and horror: it is also apparent that both generations are caught in Sisyphean tasks that leave populations disconsolate and wounded of heart.

“Hitler’s Tasters” is also a gripping extended metaphor for how women who have been victims of sexual violence carry lifelong cultural shame that prevents them from coming forward to tell their important stories in an environment of male suspicion and doubt. Under Sarah Norris’s exacting direction, the brilliant ensemble cast carries this perennial weight with enormous grace and determination.






HITLER’S TASTERS

The cast of “Hitler’s Tasters” features Hallie Griffin, MaryKathryn Kopp, Kaitlin Paige Longoria, and Hannah Mae Sturges.

The all-female design team includes An-lin Dauber (scenic design); Christina Tang (lighting design); Ashleigh Poteat (costume design); and Carsen Joenk (sound design). The choreographer is Ashlee Wasmund. The fight choreographer is Frances Ramos. Line produced by Alyssa May Gold. The technical director is ToniAnne DiFilippo. The Production Stage Manager is Lindsey Hurley.

“Hitler’s Tasters” runs for a limited engagement through Saturday, October 27th at IRT Theater (154 Christopher Street, between Greenwich and Washington Streets) on the following performance schedule: Wednesday – Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3:00 p.m. Please note there is an added performance on Monday, October 22 at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $25.00. To purchase tickets, visit www.newlighttheaterproject.com. Running time is 1 hour and 30 minutes without intermission.

Photo: Kaitlin Paige Longoria, MaryKathryn Kopp, and Hallie Griffin in ‘Hitler’s Tasters.” Credit: Hunter Canning.
0 Comments | Add Comment | Permalink | Posted by David Roberts on Friday, October 12, 2018