nytheatre.com review by Eva van Dok
Cygnet Productions’ Star
challenges us in valuable ways. The Canadian company's second show at
FringeNYC (after last year's hit Snapshot) is a tight,
professional, highly physical and fresh foray into a topic—the
Holocaust—that's been explored from just about every angle imaginable.
August 15, 2002
Star tells the tale of Stella, a young Jewish woman and art model who uses her blonde hair and Dietrich-esque curves to pose as a Gentile and save herself from the horrors of a concentration camp. Once she has obtained her freedom, Stella (played by Samantha Swan) does the truly unthinkable: in an attempt to also save her parents, she works "undercover" with the Gestapo to seek out and turn in her fellow Jews. Old neighbors and friends are not spared, and Stella, who has the survival tactics of Attila the Hun, seems to show little remorse.
Or that’s how it’s remembered by Isaac (Walter Boscariol), a Holocaust survivor who has been on a quest to find Stella, his schoolmate and first crush back in pre-war Berlin. His memory shifts from present-day Toronto to Germany during WWII. Cygnet’s talented ensemble of five help recreate Isaac’s memories for the audience by playing a total of 30 different characters who never leave the stage—a difficult feat of clarity to accomplish with even the most skilled of theatre companies.
Cygnet succeeds in painting a personal, fresh and (dare I say) humorous account of Isaac’s journey, a man who is coming to terms with his memory of two unspeakable acts of violence that defined his life—the Holocaust, and the actions of a woman who supposedly sold her body, soul and, most tragically, her people, to the Third Reich.
Swan, who also wrote the play, gives a cinematic portrait of a woman who betrays her country and her identity, but unfortunately falls short on the side of theatricality. She is fascinating to watch and obviously quite talented, but next to the physical and emotional mastery of most of the rest of the ensemble, she comes off as being one-dimensional, and doesn’t hook us into the complexity behind her motives or her soul. Because of this disparity, her well-written play, although a bit confusing at times, doesn’t live up to its potential.
That being said, the performers back her up beautifully, especially Lauren Brotman, who plays Isaac’s wife, Stella’s mother, and a number of other characters. Although a bit tense at times, her passion and physical presence is stunning. The ensemble as a whole works together beautifully to bring simplicity and clarity to a very un-simple subject matter. Cygnet is a company to watch for in the International theatre scene, and their piece is well-worth seeing in this final week of Fringe frenzy.