The first half of the play was witty with a lot of banter and quips as Schiller tries to convince her staid Midwestern parents to take a trip to Europe with her. I laughed several times.
However, the second act had a darker tone with many somber themes. The four travel through Europe encountering people that let them know America is no longer admired. While I agree with many of the statements said by the characters, much of the second act was devoted not to comedy as much as to espouse the views of the playwright including fears of the future with our current president and his impulsive behavior as he alienates the European community.
Numerous themes are presented in the play including current politics, the “ugly American,” gay/lesbian relationships, marriage, grief, and fear of death, and parental-child conflict. The historical tour while interesting had some inaccurate facts and seemed incidental – a streaming together of events that at times seemed unnecessary to the storyline.
One scene of nudity, in particular, appeared as the tourists visited a museum of frozen bodies in Germany. Was the nudity really needed? It didn’t appear to move the story forward except for shock effect but then neither did some of their other scenes.
I was disappointed. I expected the story to revolve around an emotional journey to Buchenwald for the characters. They never even actually visited but had only started walking toward the camp. As it turned out, Buchenwald had very little to do with the play at all and the characters, themselves, were hardly affected by it. (There was an allusion to the father having been from Germany but it was not developed.)
The acting was fabulous especially that of Will Bradley who played numerous roles. Mother Mildred was portrayed by Laura James and her husband Roger was Ben Martin. We saw the female version with a lesbian couple-Schiller – Mandy Schneider and her partner Arjay – Amielynn Abellera. There is also an alternate gay version with Schiller – Christopher Cappiello and Arjay – Justin Huen which I am sure is also equally well done.
The minimal staging done by Richard Hoover worked well but I left the theatre feeling ambivalent. Again I totally understood what Mr. Jacobson was saying but I am not sure if the play worked for me as entertainment. It felt as if there was more exposition than necessary. Still there will many who will agree with him.
Tickets are $30 can be obtained from Open Fist or calling 323 882-6912. The play runs until October 21, 2017 and performs at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays with a 7 p.m. show on Sundays.