Address Unknown at The Town Hall

Evgeny Kissin, Thomas Hampson and Karina Arzumanova in Address Unknown at The Town Hall
Evgeny Kissin, Thomas Hampson and Karina Arzumanova in Address Unknown at The Town Hall

NEW YORK – Address Unknown at The Town Hall.

The Cherry Orchard Festival presented the splendid New York stage play premiere of the powerful story Address Unknown, based on Kathrine Kressmann Taylor’s eponymous novel, first published in 1938. A full house attended this poignant production in the plush, sumptuous Town Hall theater. The cast skillfully portrayed just one of the millions of heartbreaking, compelling stories of friendship, love, tragedy, and betrayal during the years of Hitler’s Nazi Germany.

Letters

Like the novel, the play’s structure was epistolary, crafted in the form of letters between two German emigres, friends, and business partners in San Francisco: Max Eisenstein (Evgeny Kissin), a Jewish art dealer, and Martin Schulse (Thomas Hampson), who returns to Germany as Hitler and the Nazis are rising to power. Marvelously curated lighting, staging, and music added to the richness and presence of the narrative.

Gaudemus Igitur

The production began with the joyful strains of Gaudemus Igitur (Let’s Be Happy While We’re Young), the reflective, insightful academic anthem of hope. Gershwin’s oeuvre was subsequently ubiquitous throughout the evening, due perhaps to a foreboding and prescience that subtly hints at the evolving social landscapes of 20th-century culture. Did not Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung predict “the Nazi eruption?”


Evgeny Kissin in a scene from The Cherry Orchard Festival's production of Address Unknown at The Town Hall. Photo by Michelle Tabnick, P.R.

Evgeny Kissin in a scene from The Cherry Orchard Festival’s production of Address Unknown at The Town Hall. Photo by Michelle Tabnick, P.R.

Human Costs of Inaction

The story opens with Max and Martin collaborating on their prosperous art gallery partnership. The center stage contained a metaphoric, backlit screen representing written correspondence akin to the constructs of Taylor’s novel. The austerity of the setting—a series of letters read on stage—engendered a focus on articulate, well-crafted dialogue and themes of moral integrity, responsibility, and the human costs of inaction. The scene highlighted the impact of personal choices within sweeping historical eras.

Ideological Extremism

Tragically, Eisenstein’s beautiful younger sister Griselle (Karina Arzumanova) remained in Germany to pursue an acting career. Griselle’s innocent character and subsequent tragic demise leveraged a powerful emotive experience. Her story underscored the stakes in the breakdown of the relationship between Max and Martin and served as a stark reminder of the human costs of ideological extremism. Griselle’s tale enriched the narrative with an abstruse depiction of the consequences of societal and personal choices during a terror regime.


Thomas Hampson in a scene from The Cherry Orchard Festival production of Address Unknown at The Town Hall. Photo by Michelle Tabnick, P.R.

Thomas Hampson in a scene from The Cherry Orchard Festival production of Address Unknown at The Town Hall. Photo by Michelle Tabnick, P.R.

Gravid, Pained Silence

The cast adeptly projected Taylor’s commanding, compact work, bringing its themes to the forefront in a visceral, physical space. They chillingly reached out from the past to resonate in tonight’s contemporary milieu. This dimension deeply personalized the narrative, sanctioning viewers to feel and see the evolution of thoughts and ideologies firsthand. Griselle’s presence in Germany and her vulnerability as a Jewish woman highlighted the personal stakes involved in the correspondence between Max and Martin. As Max read out loud a letter from Martin, as he reported Giselle’s death at the hands of the Nazis, listeners gasped and sighed in the theater’s gravid, pained silence.

Betrayal and Stark Transformation

As Martin came to enjoy the fruits of Nazi party membership while justifying the anti-Jewish sentiment and book burning of the day, his personal betrayal of Max and stark personal transformation provided profound emotional agency for the audience, serving as a compelling narrative that challenged onlookers to consider their own values and decisions. One was drawn to consider the dangers of unchecked power and the significance of standing up against tyranny and tackling moral dilemmas under authoritarian regimes.

Karina Arzumanova and Thomas Hampson in a scene from The Cherry Orchard Festival's production of Address Unknown at The Town Hall. Photo by Michelle Tabnick, P.R.

Karina Arzumanova and Thomas Hampson in a scene from The Cherry Orchard Festival’s production of Address Unknown at The Town Hall. Photo by Michelle Tabnick, P.R.

Historical Reflection and Relevance

In an era where extremist ideologies and xenophobia are still prevalent, the play served as a blatant aide-mémoire of the consequences of demagoguery and hatred. It echoed the warning signs of societal shifts towards autocracy and the ease with which human relationships are corrupted by supremacy and terror.

Bravo!

Evgeny Kissin and Thomas Hampson in a scene from The Cherry Orchard Festival's production of Address Unknown at The Town Hall. Photo by Michelle Tabnick, P.R.

Evgeny Kissin and Thomas Hampson in a scene from The Cherry Orchard Festival’s production of Address Unknown at The Town Hall. Photo by Michelle Tabnick, P.R.

ADDRESS UNKNOWN at The Town Hall

Directed by Marianna Arzumanova
Based on the short novel by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor

The cast of Address Unknown

Evgeny Kissin as Max Eisenstein
Thomas Hampson as Martin Schulse
Karina Arzumanova as Griselle and Martin’s wife

The Town Hall

123 W 43rd Street
New York, NY 10036
Click HERE for The Town Hall tickets and events.

The Cherry Orchard Festival

60 Riverside Blvd.,
Suite 1612., New York, NY 10069
Phone/Fax:800.349.0021 — Office
info@cherryorchardfestival.org
Click HERE for The Cherry Orchard tickets and events.
Readers may also enjoy our reviews of The Moth ProjectThe Who’s TommyAftershocksWitchlandStalkerGrief Hotel,  The Notebook on BroadwayMy Beatnik Youth: A Solo RiffMy Mother Had Two Faces, and Before the Drugs Kick In.



Address Unknown at The Town Hall

PLEASE COMMENT & SIGN UP

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

More to Explore..

Buy Tickets to any Event, Show, or Game at Event Tickets Center
TicketLiquidator
Ticketclub.com


















0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x