Distraction is the name of the game in the well-worn musical "Cabaret" as we meander through the pleasures of the flesh in order to not notice the horror that the Weimar Republic is about to unleash on the rest of the world.
In Berlin, as the movement fueled by Adolph Hitler gains momentum, the seedy Kit Kat Klub stands as a wayside for tortured souls who want nothing more than to have a good time, even temporarily.
The Dale Gutzman version of "Cabaret," which opened Wednesday night and runs through Sept. 28, is a dark retelling of a story that mixed sex, violence, longing and fear into two and half hours of mesmerizing theater. The menace of the play at Off the Wall Theatre is as intimate as any I have seen before. Gutzman crowds a cast of almost 30 characters into a space seemingly no bigger than a boarding house room.
It may not really have been two and a half hours because the initial 90-minute first act is a setup for the powerful, moving and sorrowful second act. And Gutzman, theatrical maestro that he is, holds the reins tight until he unleashes the hounds on a rapt full house in attendance.
The story of "Cabaret" is well known: An American writer named Clifford Bradshaw (Claudio Parrone Jr.) comes to Berlin, hoping to find inspiration to write his novel. On his first night – New Year’s Eve – he visits the Kit Kat Klub and meets the sultry Sally Bowles (Laura Monagle), a British chanteuse who packs them in but who is about to be fired, just because it’s time for a change.
Their halting love affair is on a parallel line with the affair of Fraulein Schneider (Marilyn White), who runs a boarding house, and Herr Schultz (Lawrence J. Luksavage), a Jewish fruit merchant. The two elders fall in love peacefully and without histrionics until pressure from the Nazis force the fraulein to reconsider.
The early going is filled with sex, teasing, tension and ambivalent sexuality. The music is filled with earthy meaning. When White and Luksavage sing the song…Read more...