AMERIKA: 2 by Brecht

In the mid-1930s, when fascism and anti-Semitism had become a staple of German life, Bertolt Brecht wrote a series of sketches—that form the play Fear and Misery of the Third Reich alternatively known as The Private Life of the Master Race—depicting the effect of Nazism on everyday folk. Two of these mini-one-act plays are now running at the Mercury Cafe.

Phil Luna—who directs in conjunction with the ensemble, and also performs in one of the plays—chose these pieces because of their relevance to what is going on currently in the U.S. While many resist the comparisons—because of their preconceived notions of fascism as a military dictatorship along the lines of Hitler's Germany, Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain, or the Banana Republics in Latin America, propped up by U.S. support—in every aforementioned case, the actual power behind the strongman was the Anglo-Euro-American banking cartel, which also has controlled the U.S. for most of its existence.

The Informer

It is the late 1930's in Germany. The husband (Phil Luna) doodles on the piano, while the wife (Gloria Gray) paints. Their teenage son (Fabian Vazquez) listens to the radio. A furtive maid (Iliana Barron) flits in and out of the room. There is an appearance of normalcy. The son goes out for a while. Then, the maid leaves the house and passes secret notes to audience members regarding a meeting.

(Left to right) Phil Luna, Gloria Gray, and Fabian Vazquez
(L to R) Phil Luna,
Gloria Gray, and Fabian Vazquez
The couple worries that their son will betray them to the Hitler Youth for criticizing Nazism. They are fearful as well that their maid, an ardent Nazi, will inform on them. The dissonance of the conversation is reflected in the piano notes and Luna's quick, worried bursts, while Gray's even-keel assurances belie deeper concerns, as she tries to help her husband with an alibi for his words.

The Jewish Wife

During the same era, a nervous, restless wife, Judith (Magally Luna), is packing and talking with friends and relatives on the phone about her spur-of-the moment plans to go to Amsterdam for a few weeks. Afterwards, she rehearses what she will say to husband, Fritz (Camilo Luera), a professor, about her unexpected decision to leave Germany. She is a Jew married to an Aryan.

Magally Luna as Judith
Magally Luna as Judith
Her monologue details how their relationship has changed since the Nazis' anti-Semitic campaign ramped up: Fritz began experiencing flack at work (he's a surgeon)—she fears it will get worse—and they no longer look each other in the eye.

Luna does wonders with all three conversations—the four phone calls, where the persons on the other end are not heard; the rehearsed explanation for Fritz with a chair, along with some vitriol for the Nazis; and the actual stage dialogue with Fritz, where she desperately hopes he will stop her. One can only imagine the pain involved in having to leave one's marriage and country because of a matter of faith.

Fritz claims the change of scene will do her good and she can come back in a couple of weeks when "all this has blown over." She knows, he knows, and we know that it will never be. As the curtain falls, Fritz hands her the fur coat that she won’t need until next winter, and some money. In a few brief lines and body language, Luera shows us how a climate of fear shuts down feelings.

Like Shaw and Miller, Brecht finds natural ways to bring bona fide criticism of the power structure into the conversation, something that is generally lacking in American and European theatre at present. Without hitting us over the head with it, Brecht lets us feel the poison in the air, much as we are experiencing today from the same powers-that-be—corporate control over the state, one of the textbook definitions of fascism.

We know how Brecht's stories end; hopefully, his warnings are not falling on deaf ears.

AMERIKA: 2 by Brecht, runs at 7:30 PM, with the final performance November 15th and 16th. Tickets are $15. For more information: 303-294-9258.

Bob Bows

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