Despite being written over 75 years ago, Watch on the Rhine doesn't feel dated, other than by the gorgeous period clothing. It feels like a smart, witty, relevant play. The Farrellys are a wealthy family living just outside of DC in 1940: father Joshua deceased but not forgotten, mother Fanny running her house (and her children) like a tight ship, son David a bachelor lawyer, and daughter Sara returning to the family home after 20 years living in Europe with her German husband Kurt and their three children. But it turns out Sara and Kurt are not just there for a friendly visit, they're fleeing Europe where Kurt has been working in the anti-fascist movement. Complicating matters are a couple of houseguests - family friend Marthe and her Romanian count husband Teck, who has a different opinion of what's going on in Europe. He may not be a Nazi, but he's at least a sympathizer, or simply an opportunist. He's like Max in The Sound of Music (that other great theater piece about Nazis), "what's going to happen is going to happen, just make sure it doesn't happen to you." Which is perhaps the most dangerous attitude of all, as Teck poses a danger to the family's temporary safety and security.
|Kurt (Elijah Alexander) says goodbye to his children|
(Huxley Westemeier, Kate Regan, and Silas Selnow)
in the most heart-breaking scene of the play
(photo by Dan Norman)
|the cast of Watch on the Rhine (photo by Dan Norman)|
The stage has been converted into the living room of a lovely and stately home, complete with dark woodwork, elegant furniture, art on the walls, grand staircase, the hint of a library offstage, and large windows looking out onto the beautifully lit patio. As the story begins and the family enters, their posh and sophisticated clothing points to their obvious wealth. Into this lush environment come Sara and her family in plain brown traveling clothes with battered luggage, looking every bit the fishes out of water they clearly are. As the story moves on their clothing lightens up, as do their spirits, but the devastation they left behind is never far away, with sound and lighting cues tending toward the ominous as the drama continues. The overall design effect is gorgeous and aids in the storytelling (scenic design by Neil Patel, costume design by Raquel Barreto, lighting design by Alexander V. Nichols, sound design by Paul James Prendergast).
Well-written, fantastically acted, gorgeously designed, timely and relevant, Watch on the Rhine is one not to be missed (continuing through November 5). And be sure to check out the online playguide for some great background information and commentary.