In Review: Saint John Theatre Company’s ‘East Of Berlin’

Last night, Saint John Theatre Company premiered the latest show in their Studio Series, East of Berlin, at the BMO Theatre.

A companion piece to their fall production of A Diary of Anne Frank, East of Berlin tells the story of Rudi, a young man of German heritage, as he grapples with the knowledge that his father was an SS doctor at Auschwitz.  He struggles to reconcile the father who read him bedtime stories with the man who played a part in the murder of millions of innocents.  Rudi takes us through the discovery of his father’s secret at the family’s hideout in Paraguay, all the way to Berlin and back again.

East of Berlin is a beautifully written Canadian play by Hannah Moscovitch and is directed by Andrea Arbour.  If you see just one of SJTC’s productions this season, make sure this is the one.  The show is stunning in its simplicity, with a cast of only three actors and a sparse, stationary set that stands in for both Paraguay and Berlin.

I cannot say enough good things about what the intimate space of the BMO Theatre does for a production such as East of Berlin.  It draws the audience into the emotional drama and makes you feel a part of the show.  For most of the play, Rudi, played by Cameron Secord, speaks directly to the audience, in a kind of stream of consciousness monologue.  In fact, everything about this play is designed to keep you in the moment.  Even the run time, which is just over an hour and thirty minutes with no intermission, giving audiences nowhere to hide from Rudi’s pain.

Secord shines as Rudi, tackling what is certainly a very difficult script with relative ease.  Audiences can really feel Rudi’s pain, his frustration and his guilt in Secord’s generous portrayal.  Matt Hamilton-Snow, a STJC veteran, plays Hermann, the man who reveals to Rudi the truth of his father’s past and unfortunately becomes collatoral damage in Rudi’s attempts to hurt his father.  The cast is rounded out by Rotem Fenichel, who plays Rudi’s love interest Sarah.  Fenichel is new to Saint John, having arrived just a few short months ago from Israel.  She adds another layer of complexity to the story, playing a Jewish woman who unknowingly falls in love with the son of a Nazi death camp doctor.

East of Berlin is a smart, funny, sexy, thought-provoking and emotional production that will leave you considering the Holocaust from a whole new perspective.

East of Berlin runs until Saturday, April 8th at the BMO Studio Theatre.  For more information or to buy tickets, go to Saint John Theatre Company.

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