BWW Review: WE WILL NOT BE SILENT at Taproot Theatre
WE WILL NOT BE SILENT at Taproot Theatre is a glimpse into the heart of courage. The story of Sophie Scholl and her resistance to the Nazi regime is one of inspiration and fortitude. Without bells and whistles or fanfare, this show focuses on the heart of the matter. When the laws of the land conflict with what you believe to be right, how will you respond? When the stakes are high, how much are you willing to dare?
WE WILL NOT BE SILENT is the story of Sophie Scholl, a young college student that dared to challenge Nazi power in the heart of Germany. She and her brother Hans have formed a resistance group, The White Rose. Together they have recruited other like-minded students and even a professor. They distribute leaflets encouraging Germans to rise up against Hitler and the war. They are arrested at the University of Munich, and the show begins in the interrogation room. We meet Kurt Grunwald, the officer who conducts the interrogation who is not wholly unsympathetic to Scholl, but nevertheless continues acting on orders. Fatigue and hunger cause Sophie to be in a delirium where she hallucinates or dreams she is seeing her brother Hans again. Scholl is ultimately faced with the option of saving her life or saving her soul.
Amy Helms as Sophie Scholl has the monumental task of portraying defiance and fear at the same time. I felt she was most powerful in her moments of complete silence, speaking with her eyes and shaking body. Ben Wippel as Hans Scholl acts at the cheerleader and moral compass for Sophie reminding her of why they fight and why it matters. Unfortunately, we get to know very little about his character as an individual. Jonathan Stutzman as Kurt Grunwald is the embodiment of a society looking the other way. He voices internal conflict, but feels helpless. Stutzman manages to illicit a sliver of sympathy that is due to his deft handling of such a complicated character.
The play by David Meyers is a one act with the entirety of the action occurring after Sophie Scholl has been arrested. While this allows us to focus on philosophy and intentions, it also deprives us of what I consider the most vital part of the story - the moment she recognizes the utter wrongness of the world in which she lives and the realization that she does not have to be complicit. Once on the road of resistance, her resolve only grows, but the moment of stepping out of line for the first time is the ultimate act of bravery. I wish the show had included that part of her story. It would have also allowed us to know Hans and the relationship of the siblings better.
Scott Nolte as director manages to provide movement and altering view points in a show that takes place entirely inside one room. Scholl and Grunwald move around the table and rearrange the chairs so that they sit and stand in every possibly configuration within the room. By doing this, Nolte not only allows each part of the audience the opportunity to see the actors from all sides, but he also creates a sense of being trapped within the room. You can feel the confinement and the starkness of the space. Scenic design by Mark Lund is sparse, but saves a wow moment for the end where space, light, and the walk forward are more than just the next part of the story, but also a metaphor for choice Scholl has made.
Scholl is a little known figure from WWII. While the names of villains are household names, this young woman of courage is largely unknown. It is nice to see Taproot Theatre giving the spotlight to someone who was a ray of hope during a very dark time. Scholl reminds us that we all have a choice of what we choose to accept and what we choose to resist. We may not like the options, but we all have a choice. I hope you make the choice to see this show before it's gone.
WE WILL NOT BE SILENT is playing at the Taproot Theatre through April 27th. For more information or tickets, visit www.taproottheatre.org.