Thursday, January 10, 2008

Amazons And Their Men

photo: Carl Skutsch

Rebecca Wisocky plays "The Frau" (code for Nazi propagandist Leni Riefenstahl) with eyebrows up and cheeks sucked in: she's a couple of hand flourishes away from turning into Norma Desmond descending the staircase. No one else on stage seems to live in the same silent screen pantomime world that The Frau does, which is fine considering that she's the only one gripped by an artistic vision. As Jordan Harrison's seriocomic play imagines the director, on the eve of the Nazi invasion of Poland, she's tired of filming rallies and hyperfocused on making a "pure art" feature film in which she plays Penthesilea. She has to employ Jews and gypsies and other "undesirables" on the Nazis' dime to realize her vision: the playwright intriguingly links her ruthless artistic perfectionism and her blind passion with Fascism. But the most compelling contradiction about Riefenstahl - that her work honoring the heinous Nazi party which subsidized her did in fact yield stunningly beautiful works of visual art - seems beside the point of this play, which is more interested in her as a metaphor than as a believable complex character and visionary artist. She's simplified into dictator and destroyer to serve the playwright's aims.

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