By: Sandi Durell
The ramshackle room in a deserted looking building (by Jeff Cowie) sets the stage for a detention center in Vichy where several men and a young 15 year old (Jonathan Gordon) have been grabbed off the streets including a hysterical starving artist (Jonny Orsini) whose nose was measured first. They are all anxious in their speculation as to why, but it isn’t long before the underlying truth (which they all really do know – the Germans are seeking out the Jews) is unveiled in Arthur Miller’s 1964 one-act play, about the French/German collaboration during World War II.
Although there are attempts at humor and light-heartedness, as each makes an excuse how Germans are only checking identity papers, several invent their own theories as to how to present when called into the room by the German professor of racial anthropology (Brian Cross) and his henchmen. The uptight businessman (John Procaccino) is sure once they realize he’s late for an important appointment, he will be quickly let go; a socialist electrician (Alex More) expounds on his views; an egotistic actor (Derek Smith) who says it’s important not to appear like a victim; a gypsy who steals (Evan Zes); an old bearded Jewish man (Jonathan Hadary) who is silent except for reading prayers from his Bible; the waiter from the café across the street who serves some of these German soldiers and is certain he will be released (David Abeles); the very outspoken psychiatrist Leduc (a very forceful Darren Pettie) who understands more about the German psyche and their evil intentions, attempting to get several of the men to overcome the guard for an escape, while rumors of furnace camps add more fright.
There is a drunk German Major (James Carpinello) with whom a discussion ensues with Leduc, who is somewhat sympathetic, but he soon falls prey to the evil that has taken hold as their philosophical bantering nearly results in Leduc being murdered on the spot.
In this mix is a man of nobility, an Austrian gentile, grabbed off the street while emerging from his vehicle, a very convincing, elegant Richard Thomas as Prince Von Berg, ultimately pushed to his limits by Leduc, eventually acknowledging his complicity and responsibility to humanity by the play’s end.
The 90 minute, no intermission, work is chilling in it’s dramatic intent as it grips the audience in tragic events that will never be forgotten. It is Miller’s way of marking society’s great horror by the Nazis by virtue of a sadistic nature – a frailty of the human race present in each of us. Michael Wilson brilliantly directs this large cast of 17 with an impressive hand.
Incident at Vichy at Pershing Square Signature Center, 480 West 42nd Street, NYC, thru December 20.
Photos: Joan Marcus