Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe
A Crack in the Wall
A local playwright, Peter Fisk, has bravely put his arms around events leading up to the Warsaw Uprising of 1943 in A Crack in the Wall, now playing at the Adobe Theater. Two teenagersAri from the Jewish ghetto, and Stanislaw from the Polish sectionconnect in spite of the hardships and danger both of their families must confront. They speak to each other through an opening in the wall that separates the two neighborhoods.
Stanislaw is smuggling weapons to Ari's father to be used in the revolt against the Germans. He is also trying to help Ari's family with gifts of leftover food taken from his own home. Ari is trying to live up to his father's ideals and expectations, and unexpectedly finds a friend.
The Jewish Kerovskys live seven people to a small apartment. There are only three in Stanislaw's family, the Pazlovskys, and the rooms are more spacious and better appointed. A jagged wall on stage separates the rooms occupied by the Jews and the Catholic Poles; this split set emphasizes the greater deprivation of the Jews. Yet both families have suffered and will suffer devastating losses.
The cast is a solid ensemble, with a few standouts. Praise must go first to Jack Justice Brown (Ari) and Jonathan Tyrrell (Stanislaw). Young as they are, and debuting in their first show at the Adobe, these actors trust in the power of story. They show a great respect for the material and their characters' friendship, never overdoing their lines or movements. The two obviously benefit from the sure hand of director Marty Epstein: sit back and admire how he varies the action within a deliberately claustrophobic scenario.
Veteran actors Robin Lane (Sonya Pazlovsky) and Ray Orley (Micah Goldberg) play bright spots in their respective households. After nursing her own grief, Sonya tries to bring back the light to her husband's broken heart. Goldberg is the close friend of Ari's grandfather, Josef Milken (Ron Bronitsky), and provides a comic touch throughout, along with a surprising and cathartic scene toward the end of the play. Michelle Boehler ably portrays wife and mother Rachel Kerovsky who is trying to keep the family together in dystopian times.
The most galvanizing scene belongs to Eliot Stenzel as Captain Wilhelm Meitzner. The Nazis invaded homes at will, and when Meitzner intrudes on the Kerovskys' Passover seder, the chill is palpable. The captain is acting on intelligence about missing guns and ammo, and zeroes in on Ari's father Moshe (Richard Boehler). The varied and loathsome tactics he uses to try and get a confession out of Moshe build tension and culminate in a horrific act. Stenzel is charming and frightening by turns yet deftly avoids the stereotype. The audience was rapt.
Unfortunately, the explosive Passover scene also emphasizes the overall weakness of some other scenes in this new play, which will benefit from tightening in future renditions. The play is at its best when showing the plight of those in the Jewish ghetto.
The author's ambitious reach is to be applauded, but the humanity of the play is its golden heart. I felt as if I were there, and learned much about a time in history that my teachers in the 1950s were reluctant to relive. A Crack in the Wall was aching to be told.
A Crack in the Wall runs through October 11, 2015, at the Adobe Theater, 9813 4th St. NW. For tickets and information, visit www.adobetheater.org.