Sunday, October 16, 2022

Broadway Theater Review: Leopoldstadt

Joshua Satine. Photo: Joan Marcus

Leopoldstadt
By Tom Stoppard
Directed by Patrick Marber
Longacre Theatre (220 W 28th St, NYC).

By Lauren Yarger
One family's journey of love and endurance plays out against the backdrop of the Holocaust in what playwright Tom Stoppard says will be his last play, Leopoldstadt.

The work was inspired by some of Stoppard's family's experience, where Jewish roots were long again forgotten or buried firmly under ground. 

Set in Vienna, Leopoldstadt takes its title from the city's Jewish quarter. Stoppard stakes us on a more than half-century journey with the Merz and Jacobovicz families beginning in 1899 and ending in 1955. The family's extended genealogy tree is shown a few times thanks to Scenic, Lighting and Video Designers Neil Austin, Richard Hudson and Isaac Madge respectively (though given the complex story telling and huge cast of 38 a pull-out copy of it in the program might be helpful). Period images are shown between scenes, but we have no idea who the people are.

At the beginning of the saga, the extended family and friends celebrate December holidays in their opulent apartment. Gathered are Matriarch Grandma Emilia Merz (Betsy Aidem), her son
Hermann (David Krumholtz) and his wife (and a Gentile), Gretl (Faye Castlelow), and their son Jacob (Joshua Satine and Aaron Shuf) who is 8. 

Hermann’s sister, Eva (Caissie Levy) and her husband, Ludwig (Brandon Urbanowitz), their son, Pauli (Drew Squire) and their new baby girl, Nellie. Ludwig’s sister, Wilma (Jenna Augen), is married to Gentile Ernst (Aaron Neil). They have two daughters, Sally (Reese Bogin and Romy Fay) and Rosa (Pearl Scarlet Gold and Ava Michele Hyl). Rounding out the family portrait is Ludwig and Wilma’s unmarried younger sister, Hanna (Colleen Litchfield), who plays the piano.

There is laughter and fun, talk of romance for Hanna, who has met an attractive soldier named Fritz (Arty Froushan). Grandma shares stories and pictures from the family album, there is excitement as Gretl is having her portrait painted and a star of David is placed on top of a Christmas tree. All is harmony.

In 1924 the family is joined by Hermine (Eden Epstein), the daughter of Hanna and Kurt (Daniel Cantor), an older Rosa (Augen), Jacob (Seth Numrich), Nellie (Tedra Millan), Sally (Sara Topham) and her husband, Zac (Matt Harrington) as well as Aaron (Jesse Aaronson), Nellie's husband. Nellie sews an Austrian flag, Rosa has come from America for a bris, which gets more discussion that rising unrest against the Jews. The family and their circumstances change, but the photo album, a game of cat's cradle and that portrait of Gretl in her green shawl are constant ties that bind the family together.

In 1938, journalist Percy Chamberlain (Numrich) joins the family and tries to get them to understand that things in Vienna are deteriorating and that they must leave. The general attitude seems to be that the family has weathered similar situations in the past and that they can get exit visas later if necessary.

"It will pass, and something else will take its place," Eva says assuredly. An ominous visit from an official of the state (Cory Brill) and the sound of breaking glass prove Percy's words that "things will get worse . . . much worse," is the right prediction.

Finally, in 1955 there is a reunion of an older Nathan and Rosa and Nellie and Aaron's son Leo (Froushan), who does not remember any of his family roots.

While the family's saga is moving, most of the action takes place off stage and the characters spend most of their time telling us about it. The scene with the government official taking over the family's apartment and questioning them about their activities is  the most compelling, because we experience it with them. Most everything else is second hand with lots of exposition that can turn into a yawn fest. There's only so much Director Patrick Marber can do with so many moving parts.

My guess is that if the playwright's name was not Tom Stoppard, this play would have been sent back for some fine tuning and trimming before getting a staging (the run time is two hours and 10 minutes with no intermission). But because it is Tom Stoppard,  Leopoldstadt received the Olivier Award for Best New Play in October 2020 for its West End run. And because he has four other Tony Awards for best play under his belt (the most of any playwright), look for this, his 19th play on Broadway,  to  get another Tony nod in June.

Meanwhile, don't be off by the fact that you can't remember who's who or get confused by new actors in for aging characters or doubling roles. In the end, it's the collective family experience that matters. PS 23 of the 38 actors in this production are making their Broadway debuts.


Leopoldstadt plays at the Longacre Theatre, 220 W 28th St, NYC. leopoldstadtplay.com.


Additional credits:

Costume Design, Brigitte Reiffenstuel; sound and original music Adam Cork;  and movement by Emily Jane Boyle.

FAMILY-FREINDLY FACTORS:
-- No notes

Covid Protocol: 
Masks not required

No comments:

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York. Shifting from reviewing to producing, Yarger owns Gracewell Productions, which produced the Table Reading Series at the Palace Theater in Waterbury, CT. She trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run. She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She wrote reviews of Broadway and Off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She was a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice president and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (producer of the annual awards ceremony) and a member of The League of Professional Theatre Women, serving as Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter. Yarger was a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

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All material is copyright 2008- 2022 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women or people of a certain race are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide, or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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