BWW Review: TAKING SIDES at Granite Theatre
The Granite Theatre in Westerly RI successfully tackles Taking Sides, the thought-provoking drama about the Allied effort-known as denazification-to remove Nazi party members from influential roles in post-war German society and culture.
Set in the American zone of 1946 Berlin, the 1995 play by British playwright Sir Ronald Harwood considers a single case-that of an actual person-the celebrated conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler. Considered one of the finest conductors of the 20th century, Furtwangler lead the Berlin Philharmonic from 1922 through 1945. While many of his peers fled Germany, he stayed behind. Was he a Third-Reich sympathizer or was he secretly doing good? The play asks you to decide.
Although the setting is a drab army office, the well-delivered dialogue moves along quickly under the direction of Jude Pescatello and the story is one that stays with you.
Marcus Fisk commands the stage as US Army Major Steve Arnold, a no-nonsense insurance adjustor who hails from the Midwest. As a first-hand witness to Nazi atrocities, Arnold is determined to bring the famous conductor down. Fisk convincingly switches from wise-cracking military man to war-wounded soldier. He also perfectly delivers the play's well-placed and well-needed laughs.
Genevra Stewart brings a haunting intensity to the role of Tamara Sachs, the widow of a talented pianist, bravely channeling the raw emotion of the era as the world attempted to heal from the horrors of that war.
Ryan Sekac portrays second violinist Helmuth Rode with a great physicality that's both dramatic and at times comic-shivering, sweating and shaking with nerves.
And Greg Bliven brings a quiet, almost inscrutable, dignity to the role of Wilhelm Furtwangler, perfect as questions swirl around his character. Rounding out the cast are Jim Auger as American Lieutenant David Wills and Courtney Littlefield as Emmi Straub, the office secretary and the daughter of a German hero.
Harwood is better known for The Pianist, for which he won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. That film also featured similar themes. And while Taking Sides was also adapted as a film in 2001, why not see it up close and personal in the charming and comfortable Granite Theatre, where this production runs through May 13, 2017. For more information, go to www.granitetheatre.com.