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Hitler’s Tasters

This smart play functions as both a history lesson and as an exploration of group dynamics of young women, seemingly anywhere and everywhere.

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Kaitlin Paige Longoria, Hallie Griffin and MaryKathryn Kopp in a scene from Michelle Kholos Brooks’ “Hitler’s Tasters” (Photo credit: Hunter Canning/@huntercanning)

David Kaufman

David Kaufman, Critic

Though its title couldn’t be clearer or more transparent, Hitler’s Tasters proves anything but that, as it merges the past, when Hitler was still alive, with the present, when fresh autocrats are popping up all over the world, including in our neck of the woods.

Based on real circumstances, the play by Michelle Kholos Brooks introduces us to three teenaged girls who taste the Fuhrer’s prepared food before him, to ensure that he isn’t being poisoned. As one of them says, “It’s glorious to die, protecting the Fuhrer.”

Their talk focuses on their pride and honor serving the Fuhrer, eating “such high quality food” on his “personal, bone china” while their “neighbors are eating mice and insects.” And if one of them eventually disappears, like the remaining two, we don’t know if it’s because she was indeed poisoned or left for other mysterious reasons.

When we first meet them, the three are busy taking selfies with their anachronistic cellphones, as gunshots are heard in the distance. But the cellphones are one of the many ways Hitler’s Tasters draws connections between the Third Reich and today. Certain lines have modern relevance, such as when one of the girls says, “I shouldn’t have to school you on the Russians.” And as another says, “The Reich tells us what we need to know. Anything else could be fake,” like so much of our news is today.

MaryKathryn Kopp, Hannah Sturges and Hallie Griffin in a scene from Michelle Kholos Brooks’ “Hitler’s Tasters” (Photo credit: Hunter Canning/@huntecanning)

Anna (Kaitlin Paige Longoria), “the glamorous one,” seems a bit of an outsider. Hilda (MaryKathryn Kopp) is the most domineering, and Liesel (Hallie Griffin) the most helpful. And after Anna disappears, the remaining two are joined by Margot (Hannah Sturges), who knows that she’s working for the Reich, but she assumed as a secretary. It’s Liesel who tells her what her real job is, before telling Margot a little later that the Fuhrer is a “vegetarian.” This explains why they never eat meat, fish or chicken.

As directed with a surefire hand by Sarah Norris, the passage of time is conveyed as the girls change their costumes on stage and then dance to choreographed movements between the scenes. (The costumes are by Ashleigh Poteat and the scenic design by An-lin Dauber.)

The smart play functions on a number of different levels at once: as a history lesson, yes, but also as an exploration of group dynamics of young women, seemingly anywhere and everywhere.

Hitler’s Tasters (through October 27, 2018)

New Light Theater Project

IRT Theater, 154 Christopher Street, in Manhattan

For tickets, visit http://www.newlighttheaterproject.com

Running time: 90 minutes without an intermission

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David Kaufman
About David Kaufman (88 Articles)
David Kaufman has been covering the theater in New York since 1981. A former theater critic for the New York Daily News, he was also a long-time contributor to the Nation, Vanity Fair, the Village Voice and the New York Times. He is also the author of the award-winning Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam, the best-selling Doris Day: The Untold Story of the Girl Next Door, and his most recent biography, Some Enchanted Evenings: The Glittering Life and Times of Mary Martin.

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