Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New York, Spring 2009 -- Day 12 "Irena's Vow"

It's always difficult to criticize a play (or movie or book or mini-series) about the Holocaust. (It's even harder to applaud at the end of the play for an actor in a Nazi uniform; it just feels odd.) I don't really intend to criticize "Irena's Vow" too deeply. But I don't intend to praise it, either.

The show, by Dan Gordon, now playing at the Walter Kerr Theater, competently and simply tells the story of Irena Gut Opdyk, a pious Polish Catholic woman who was pressed into working for the Germans during their occupation of Poland. At the same time that she learns of plans to exterminate the Jews of the region, she is also offered the position of housekeeper for the German commandant. Irena decides -- in a brilliant bit of strategic thinking -- that the best place for the 11 Jewish men and women who had been working under her would be in the cellar of the commandant's new villa.

It's an amazing story by any measure (and became even more amazing when the daughter of Irena Gut Opdyk walked onstage at the conclusion of the play to answer questions and share some additional aspects of the story), but for a Broadway offering, "Irena's Vow" never really finds its feet. It's workmanlike, and if the story interests you, it's worth seeing, but it lacks the oomph required for me to wholeheartedly recommend it.

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