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.
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