Review: WALKING TO BUCHENWALD at Convergence-continuum

WALKING TO BUCHENWALD gets better production than script deserves at con-con

By: Jun. 05, 2023
Review: WALKING TO BUCHENWALD at Convergence-continuum

At the start of the opening night of BUCHENWALD, it appeared that no matter the quality of the script the audience was in for a rough night.  Lighting guffaws, a confusing scene with actors speaking directly to the audience, but talking to other actors seemingly miles apart, with no visual means of the messages being conveyed.  Not a healthy beginning.
Once they pulled out phones, and got into the swing of things, and the lighting-tech got their act together, the five-person cast did themselves proud, getting numerous laughs, while trying to convey Jacobson’s disjointed tale.
​We meet lesbian lovers, Schiller and Arjay.  The duo decides to take Schiller’s parents on a trip to Europe.  The parents are uptight about travel, uptight about doing anything out of their comfort zone, are uptight about leaving their Oklahoma ways.  But, interestingly enough, they are, by self-admission, probably the only two liberal Democrats in the Okie state.
Schiller's dad, Roger, is eventually willing.  Arjay succeeds in convincing Mildred to join the three of them. 

Once in London, then Paris, then Germany, near the site of the Buchenwald concentration camp, the foursome is confronted with comments about the incompetency of the U.S. political system, U.S. versus European food habits, the role of museums and other sociological issues.

Sounds like this could expose very delightful, quirkier, and ridiculous situations and dialogue.  And, if Jacobson knew precisely what he was trying to accomplish, it probably could have been.
The writer and theatre try to pawn this script off as an intellectual approach to examine “cultural, national and gender identity, politics, marriage, death, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, life and death, all within an examination of if God exists.”  Is also probes “what it means to be a parent, a spouse, a child; what it feels like to be in a relationship with a partner who is your temperamental opposite; to be a liberal in a Red State; an American in a Trump-like western world; someone dying in a world obsessed with hollow positivity; and what it means to be a European shackled to an America teeming with reemerging nativism.  Jacobson doesn’t seek to determine who is to blame for anything. None of us is to blame. All of us are to blame. Blame God.”
Yep, all that “stuff” in a two-act-play.  With intermission.  Intermission is needed to give you time and breath while trying to crawl out from the avalanche of ideas the author is throwing at us.
As one review said, “BUCHENWALD lingers long after the final curtain, its puzzles working their way into your dreams.” (No, thank you!)
The positive are the performances!
John J. Polk and Nanna Ingvarsson seamlessly portray Schiller's parents Mildred and Roger and their respective character metamorphoses. 

Ingvarsson begins as a complaining, former grade school teacher set in her ways.  But once in Europe, she blossoms into a vibrant purveyor of life, even while complaining that she isn’t given time in England to do genealogical research.  (Oh yeah, genealogical connections are another topic the writer loads into the script.  And, no, no-one finds they had relatives killed in Buchenwald, though that might have been a great plot twist, one that could be a possibility based on the title.)

As a former theatre director, Polk spouts out Jacobson's most meta lines on the theatre scene. As the one with German ancestry, Roger transparently reveals his very mixed feelings on actually visiting the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Emmy Cohen is right on target as Schiller, a somewhat obsessive young lady who thinks that having a comprehensive itinerary is the only way to have a good time and tour. 
Arjay, as interpreted by the very competent Carolyn Todd, is the peacemaker between her girlfriend and herself as well as between Shiller and her parents.  

John Peters plays a number of integral supporting roles trying valiantly to differentiate them all with different foreign accents and distinct body language.  Characters include a British tourist at the Darwin Centre, a French waiter upset over the ugly Americans not liking the food, a scary German truck driver, and a talking corpse in the Body Worlds Exhibition.  (Don’t even ask why that is included in the script.

Capsule judgment:  Every once in a while a director and actors shine, while the script they are working with doesn’t really deserve to garner the quality.  This is the case of WALKING TO BUCHENWALD, the Tom Jacobson play now on stage at convergence-continuum.
WALKING TO BUCHENWALD runs Thursday-Saturday at 8PM, June 2-24, 2023​ at convergence-continuum, 2438 Scranton Road.  For tickets go to
Next up at con-con:  MOONRISE AFTER THE MOUNTAINS FALL, June 29-July 1, followed by EXIT PUIRSUED BY A BEAR from August 11-September 2.


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From This Author - Roy Berko

Roy Berko, a life-long Clevelander, holds degrees, through the doctorate from Kent State, University of Michigan and The Pennsylvania State University. Roy was an actor for many years, appearing in mo... Roy Berko">(read more about this author)


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