Walking into the space where Field Trip Theatre is performing Fallbeil is a sobering experience. For those unaware that “fallbeil” is a German word, seeing pictures of Hitler and Nazi Germany on the walls is a shock. When you read the program and see that one of the characters is Sophie Scholl, the pieces start to fall into place. Written by Liz Maestri, this tale of two young women who, in different ways, become acquainted with the costs of war and of heroism, is a beautifully heart-wrenching story.
At the heart of this whirlwind of a play are Sophie Scholl and Else. Sophie, for those who don’t know, was a young woman who wrote pamphlets against the Nazis in secret, and was executed before her twenty-second birthday. Else is a modern, fictional character, whose brother fought in Afghanistan and was injured, and now lies in a coma. Else visits the cemetery where Sophie and her brother Hans were buried, and can talk to Sophie’s ghost, which is trapped on Earth unable to move on. In the role of Sophie is Chelsey Christensen, who perfectly captures the strength and hope of the young resistance writer, as well as the struggle to deal with her new circumstances. Angie Tennant as Else is the bitter young woman, forced into adulthood too soon, and lashing out at the world. Both of these actresses were moving, and yet relatable. Their performances were astounding.
Trapped alongside Sophie is her brother Hans, who believes there must be a Heaven for them to get to, but not knowing how. Played by Kevin Collins, Hans was the stability in the show, the only character whose actions did not haunt him. Collins’s performance was filled with witty humor and touching honesty. His performance seemed effortless, and his simple earnestness was fascinating to watch.
Each of the young women had a love interest, to further complicate things (of course). Sophie’s was Fritz Hartnagel, who in real life fought in the war and after her death married her older sister. Fritz tried to persuade Sophie to keep up appearances of support for the Nazis, for her safety. Played by Matthew Hirsh, Fritz was at times stiff, but this added to the appearance of his character having to do what he might not think is right, but necessary. Hirsh flitted in and out of scenes like the ghost he was, tormenting Sophie and the audience with what might have been.
Else’s love interest is Karl, her “best friend,” who also knew her injured brother. Playing Karl is Josh Adams, and although his guitar skills might be rusty, his acting chops certainly weren’t. The role of unrequited lover is never easy, as it can go from sweet to boring in an instant, but Adams never failed to entertain.
…packed full of pleasant surprises
The technical aspects of Fallbeil were very impressive, considering that the company shares the space with other shows. The set, which has already been mentioned, was very versatile. Designed by Stephen Strosnider, it consisted of simple wooden boxes and crates which were shifted around to create several easily identified locations. The sound effects, by Palmer Hefferan, were highly impressive. The lighting, by Chris Holland, was perhaps the best kind – you hardly noticed it, until something important happened. All in all, for a temporary set up as part of the festival, the technical aspects were astounding.
This emotionally driven show is packed full of pleasant surprises. It features wonderful actors, technicians, and a well-crafted script. For those unfamiliar with Sophie Scholl and her incredible story, it is easy to follow, and for those who consider themselves history buffs, it includes many little tidbits to enjoy. It offers powerful insight into the life of a brilliant young woman, as well as a modern take on how wars still affect the innocent and the brave. It will make you think, it may even make you cry. But most of all, it will give you joy to watch it unfold.
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission.
Advisory: Partial nudity and inappropriate language.
Fallbeil has one more show with the Fringe Festival, on July 27th at 7:45 pm. Tickets can be purchased here or 866-811-4111.