BWW Review: WE WILL NOT BE SILENT at CATF
We Will Not Be Silent at CATF is an extraordinary theatrical experience based on true events. College student Sophie Scholl is arrested and interrogated by a German Nazi officer (not entirely unsympathetic to her cause) for the only act of civil disobedience protesting Hitler by a German citizen during the Second World War. Scholl, along with assistance from her brother and his friends, founded the White Rose, a group of university students encouraging peaceful resistance from German citizens against Hitler and his mission. After her arrest, Scholl is forced to decide how much information, if any, she would be willing to reveal to save herself and her family and if her dedication to the right cause will cost her life.
The success of the show is truly in the simplicity of the situation, allowing the focus to completely remain on the powerful performances. With the focus on a Crucible-esque moral dilemma about what words and actions truly mean in supporting political and personal beliefs, David Meyers' intimately written show provides an epic moral question in one of the murkiest moral time periods in history: World War II Germany.
In a standout star turn, Lexi Lapp carries the show, literally never leaving the stage as schoolgirl turned resistance organizer Sophie Scholl. Lapp appears early on as a sweet and unassuming schoolgirl who quickly proves how determined and brave the character truly is near the end of the first scene. Her excellent facial expressions convey the complexity of her character and one of her most powerful scenes in We Will Not Be Silent was, ironically, a sequence under near torture where her character remained silent the entire scene. Lapp displayed excellent physicality in the second half of the show after two days of sleep deprivation and horrifically portrayed some incredibly realistic physical symptoms. Her desperate breakdown and plea to live in a monologue about all the things she wants to do in life was possibly the best moment of the show.
With the most complex and difficult character to portray in the production, Paul DeBoy shines as Nazi interrogator Kurt Grunwald. As the ultimate authority figure in the claustrophobic world of the story, Deboy wonderfully alternates between a warm, caring fatherly figure to Sophie and a ruthless, violent tempered tyrant. Deboy makes it very clear of the intentions and back story that drive his character to act the way he does.
Both lead characters in the show are made morally ambiguous and Lapp and Deboy leave the moral center in enough of a gray area to match Sophie's dreary prison cell. The chemistry the two actors share is outstanding while portraying this unusual developing relationship between a captive and captor. Featuring excellent direction from Ed Herendeen, the show is blocked in such a way that the positions and staging of the two characters frequently changes to refrain from growing stale and keep increasing the tension in some of the cool and calculated movements as the stakes grow higher for each character.
Lucky Gretzinger is beautifully sincere as Sophie's protective older brother, Hans. The two shared a touching scene after Gretzinger's entrance and a bittersweet scene precluding some tragic consequences when Gretzinger offered advice to his sister. Scott Cooper forms an imposing visual presence as a non-speaking, menacing Nazi prison guard.
The set is an austere interrogation prison room, with two chairs and a table as the only furniture for the actors to utilize. The harsh sudden blackouts and bursts of lights up to begin and end scenes adds incredible strength to the intensity of the show and voice over transitions between scenes add a great power. Proving less is truly more, We Will Not Be Silent was certainly not the show to remain silent about at the Contemporary American Theater Festival this summer.
Photo Credit: CATF Media Gallery