STARS IN A DARK SKY
nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
August 21, 2008
Sophie and Hans Scholl were a brother and sister who led a student resistance movement, the White Rose, against the Nazis in Munich. Along with three other students, they handed out leaflets which asked for opposition to the Nazi party. When they were turned in by a janitor who informed the Gestapo, the Scholls were put on trial for treason. Found guilty, they, along with the others, were sentenced to death by guillotine.
Their story is being told in Stars in a Dark Sky, a FringeNYC production by the Red Fern Theatre Company. The play is directed by Red Fern co-founder and artistic director Melanie Moyer Williams and was written by R.E. Vickers, a pseudonym that comprises New York family Whitney and Catryna Seymour, and their grown daughters Tryntje and Gabriel.
Whitney Seymour was serving on the American side in World War II during the time of the Scholls' trial, and he later discovered their story on a trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. Some years later, they discovered a book of their letters and spent years trying to devise a way to tell their story.
The result is Stars, a dramatic reading of said letters, combined with connective narration, multimedia presentations of Hitler's speeches, and other photographs and clips. The powerful piece, with shades of The Diary of Anne Frank, is a story that more people should know about. It certainly was my introduction to the Scholls' story, despite years of extensive reading and learning about the Holocaust.
Perhaps one of the pitfalls of a dramatic reading is stumbling over lines in the effort to recite lines from memory while balancing the script on a music stand. Still, stumbles and all, the cast provides very solid, captivating performances. Dana Berger captures the innocent naiveté of young Sophie; Walker Hare provides a forceful and performance as Hans. Narrating the show as oldest sister Inge, Annie Keating has the nice, crisp speaking voice, perfect for voiceovers. Nathan Johnson provides solid support as Werner, the youngest Scholl child.
There isn't much "play" in Stars in a Dark Sky. There are a few scenes, but it's mostly the letters read out loud, which works very well. Vickers has found a way to create a convincing dramatic arc with little dialogue between characters. Williams's staging is very simple and does much justice to the script and the story of the White Rose.
It's ironic that, not even a week after I returned home from a vacation in Germany, I saw Stars in a Dark Sky. Touring the Holocaust Museum and the Memorial and even the Reichstag building, I thought I had learned it all. Apparently not.