Hanna's Treasure Box
nytheatre.com review by Joan Kane
November 13, 2012
There are 100 shows being presented in the United Solo Festival. I saw Hanna’s Treasure Box by Martha Smith. It was beautifully performed, by Ardoine Clauzel, on a bare stage with just a coat tree, a chair and a suitcase. Through simple costume and lighting changes Ms. Clauzel inhabits the life of the young girl Hanna as she learns her identity. Hanna was a Jew in 1942 Nazi occupied Norway.
In the course of the play we learn that Hanna and her family are fishermen and tradesmen living in a house on a tiny island off the coast of Norway. The family had come there 400 years before to escape the attacks against the Jews during the Spanish Inquisition. In that time they had become fully assimilated into Norwegian culture. They consider themselves Norwegians, not Jews.
One storyline involves night dreams that Hanna is having about her family fleeing the Spanish Inquisition and another has the family actually fleeing to Sweden to escape the brutality of the Nazis. Hanna also finds a hidden old box that turns out to be the only thing the family has left from their days in Spain. It contains a prayer shawl with the Star of David and a prayer book that has the story of how Moses fled from Egypt. After the war they moved to Oslo and Hanna embraced her identity as a Jew, worshiping in the local synagogue. Neighbors would openly tell them that they were going to make sure the work of the Nazi’s was complete. Hanna is now a teenager and sees the Israeli embassy get bombed and her Jewish friends get beaten and harassed. Her family again must flee for their safety, this time to Israel. When the actress got to this part of the show the people in the audience loudly yelled “Bravo”.
Director Tomer Zvulun does an excellent job making sure the action moves forward and, in 70 minutes, the emotional depths of the story rise and fall in an engaging way.
I am thrilled when I see a play that introduces me to new ideas and asks me to question my assumptions about history and mankind. Hanna’s Treasure Box certainly did that for me. I was also filled with a deep sadness to learn about hatred and bigotry. Is it possible to erase bigotry and hatred from the human condition where generations, even generations that do not associate themselves with an identity, are punished for containing the DNA of a specific race?