“IRENA’S VOW” -- STIRRING PERFORMANCE AT STRATFORD’S SQ 1 THEATRE
By Marlene S. Gaylinn
The World War 11 generation is aging rapidly, soon there will no one left to give a first hand account of the struggle to survive the Nazis who’s particular, cruel mission was to eradicate all the Jews. And so, when Irena opens and closes “Irina’s Vow” with these serious sentiments, her heartfelt delivery, lovingly addressed to “My dear children” while proclaiming “ … it’s true, there was a Holocaust … these events really happened,” strikingly hits home with her high school audience and any possible “skin heads” that may be in the crowd. The message is that it’s up the younger generations to pass on the story of this struggle and to speak up against intolerance against anyone, leaves her real, Stratford Theatre audience moved and shaken.
Like “The Diary of Anne Frank,” this is a true story. Irena Gut Opdyke was a Polish, Catholic survivor who saved thirteen Jews from extinction by secretly hiding them in the cellar of the Nazi officer whom she worked for. While her experiences were not as well publicized as Anne Frank, Irena was given the highest honors for heroism when the State of Israel was formed. Irena and her husband have recently died, but her story, via Dan Gordon’s play, lives on. Gordon has written several plays and is an award-winning screenwriter. This is his first play to reach Broadway and he is currently writing the screen version.
Smoothly jumping back and forth as both narrator and participant in the action, Peggy Nelson, gives a very sensitive and believable performance as Irena. Her ethnic characterization -- even her Polish accent seemed perfect. David Victor as “Major Rugemer,” Matthew Guttierrez as the “German Worker” and Gary Blomberg as “Schultz” stood out in their snappy roles. Several cast members depicting the Jewish survivors, gave uneven characterizations – but this did not detract from the overall production. Director, Tom Holehan should be credited for capturing the authentic, Jewish customs, careful pronunciations of the prayers and insertions of typical melodies – which added even greater poignancy to the underground inhabitants and their plight.
This is an intelligent, very moving production that should not be missed.
Plays until – Feb. 19 Tickets/Info: 203-375-8778
Next Show; ART by Yasmina Reza May 13-28 www.squareonetheatre.com