Kindertransport is a script full of potential. Unfortunately, on the Playcrafters stage on May 8, the meaning of the play got lost somewhere in the muddle of forgotten lines and lifeless delivery. Directed by Charles Rubovits, Kindertransport (continuing through May 23) is definitely a change for Playcrafters Barn Theatre, which usually sticks to scripts in the adult comedy or mystery genres. I'm glad to see the group stepping out of its usual lighthearted mode into drama, but a lot of elements need improvement before plays such as Kindertransport will be taken seriously.
Diane Samuel's script follows the story of Eva, a Jewish-German girl living during the Holocaust, and her adult self (who goes by the name Evelyn) as she deals with painful memories from her past. Though Eva's mother, Helga, and her father live in a concentration camp (her father also dies there) after Eva is safely in Britain, we hardly ever see Helga on stage or hear her story. Instead, we watch young Eva mature into love for a new mother, Lil, and leave her old life behind. We also see the action occurring 20 years later, when Evelyn's daughter Faith finds letters between Eva and her mother. Faith becomes upset with Evelyn for hiding her past and they argue, forcing Evelyn to face the memories she has tried to forget.
The story in Kindertransport is a good one; it's about finding a place in the world, the importance of mother-daughter relationships, and facing the past instead of running away from it. I wish the show had worked on the Playcrafter's stage, but the acting was so bland I had trouble getting into the story.
First of all, I must praise Terry Sacks (Helga), who had a much smaller part than she deserved but who made the most of every line and added heartbreaking emotion to her reunion scene with Eva. Young Eva, played by middle-schooler Claire Kerker, also had engaging moments, such as her first scene with Helga, when her genuine frustration at having to sew buttons gave us a sense of the nine-year-old youth she was portraying.
The other actors, unfortunately, contributed little in terms of emotion or believability. I was not at all convinced, for instance, that the brusque, stubborn adult Evelyn (Jackie Skiles) could have possibly been Eva in her younger days. Gary Baker, who had multiple but minimal roles as a postman and train-station manager, forgot a few lines that made for an incredibly uncomfortable silence. During scenes involving Faith (Kari Skiles), Lil (Jaye Zessar), and Evelyn, I spent the time counting my husband's yawns and reading the liner notes.
These scenes were crucial to the rest of the show because they were supposed to indicate how Evelyn was now dealing with issues from her past and her family. But the three women were either speaking in monotones or shouting over each other, causing the lines to blend together.
Aside from the acting, the set was designed very well and fluidly worked as both Evelyn's attic and Eva's home in Britain. Dust and mustiness on all the trunks, boxes, and picture frames gave it a genuine "attic" feel.
Kindertransport is a show I would like to see again, but in a better production. The script has potential to make audiences experience emotions other than boredom; again, the reunion scene between Eva and Helga should be incredibly sad (because Eva chooses to stay in Britain while her mother travels to America), but I felt absolutely nothing while the actors recited their lines. Drama is supposed to leave people pondering their own life situations, but the only situation I was thinking about was the moment I could get out of that theatre.
Kinderstransport continues with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through May 23. Tickets are $8. For more information or to reserve tickets, visit (http://www.playcrafters.com).