“THE PIANIST”, Adapted for the Stage and Directed by EMILY MANN, Based on the memoir of WLADYSLAW SZPILMAN with an Original Score by IRIS HOND, is currently in production at George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, NJ, at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center- 11 Livingston Ave, New Brunswick-(732)745-8000)
And so, we have yet another presentation reminding us of The Holocaust. This one, not entirely unfamiliar to anyone who’s viewed the Roman Polanski film from 2002. It won several Oscars that came from the same source of Szpilman’s memoir of his beyond harrowing account of the already concert and radio celebrity’s improbable survival in wartime Warsaw, Poland between the years of the entire European conflict (1939-45).
With this stage adaptation by the esteemed Emily Mann now playing at the George Street Playhouse in its intimate theater space and a crack ensemble of players, led by the imported young DANIEL DONSKOY who has made a considerable success in Britain ( “The Crown”) as well as Germany, (“Sankt Maik”)- he admits to fluency in several languages, as well as several stage productions on the West End and provinces.
His bona fides are mentioned here because he needs to carry the entire narrative of the central character throughout the hour and a half. He is, however, more than ably supported by that ensemble which features the venerable AUSTIN PENDLETON portraying Szpilman’s father with a poignancy familiar to anyone who has followed his more than six decades career. CLAIRE BECKMAN is equally moving as his mother. PAUL SPERA provides considerable energy as the more radical brother. ARIELLE GOLDMAN is perfectly convincing as the brilliant nascent attorney sister. JORDAN LAGE playing a number of roles from Nazi soldiers to underground savior is distinctive and at times quite touching. GEORGIA WARNER is quite lovely as Halina and young CHARLOTTE EWING is heartbreaking as Magda. TINA BENKO is protean in a variety of characters expertly rendered.
I wish to make special mention of ROBERT DAVID GRANT featured in a track of roles covering Majorek, Szpilman’s friend who was among the Jewish Police forced upon the ghetto population by the occupying Nazis, whose character clearly illustrated the tragic ambiguities of the impossible wartime situation of Warsaw’s Jews and population. Grant also supplied a series of characters, all distinct from one another, from villainous soldiers and guards to ultimately, the Nazi officer who helped Szpilman survive in the last weeks of the war, when it was clearly established that the entire beloved family of the famed musician was liquidated at Treblinka by 1942.
In 1945, when the Allied troops liberated the death camps, Commanding General of the entire European Theater Dwight David Eisenhower, ordered all Signal Corps to film more than they may have thought necessary to accurately document the unprecedented carnage and seemingly impossible to believe inhumanity perpetrated by Hitler’s forces. Ike’s presaging in knowing that denials would be immediate, rampant, and enduring from that time on from not merely Germans, but innumerable proponents of all varieties of antisemitism was spot on. The weapons of incredulity, on which Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, and all those present at the Wannsee Conference in January of 1942 when the,” final solution” was agreed upon and implemented, are still very much deployed in this world. It is unfortunately very much prominent in our historically divided nation today. And so, apparently, the need for yet another manifestation of this beyond tragic story, with the particular power of one man’s account, is indeed all too required. That this iteration is expertly provided makes the experience ironically rewarding and welcome. It’s very much worth the trek on NJ Transit to witness this production in New Brunswick. As for those of you already residing in the Garden State, here is a harvest for you to gather and ponder.
George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick, NJ, at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center- 11 Livingston Ave, New Brunswick-(732)745-8000