Wednesday, November 30, 2022

My Review of "Camp Siegfried"

 Here is my review from ReviewsOffBroadway.com

Young, Stupid and Political at Camp Siegfried

Johnny Berchtold and Lily McInerny star in Bess Wohl's Camp Siegfried, directed by David Cromer, at Second Stage Theater.
(© Emilio Madrid)

Camp Siegfried starts with an unknown and uncomfortable part of history. From 1936 to 1941 there was a movement among some German Americans to convince the United States to adopt Third Reich answers to the problems of the world, and to ally with Hitler. Camp Siegfried takes place in a summer youth camp directed by the American Bund - or German American National Socialists - before Hitler’s regime started the wars and the country’s aggressive hatred was clear. The movement crashed after America’s entry into World War II.

So, a minefield.

At the start of the play the analogies to present day America seem blatantly obvious. Telegraphed like Steven Spielberg milking our emotions. But the analogy becomes more tortured until it is muddled with the experiences of these two teenagers. Johnny Berchtold and Lily McInerny play the unnamed young people.

These two actors navigate a situation that becomes less overtly political and more personal as the story progresses. It is not just a political history lesson, it is also an emotional journey of young people. These two navigate a summer camp of adolescence as infatuation convinces them they are in love.

The Bund, like the Nazi Youth, promotes the idea of pure germans reproducing. That is the purpose for women. Sex and pregnancy are encouraged by the members of the right ages - she is 16 and he is 17.

Johnny Berchtold and Lily McInerny star in Bess Wohl's Camp Siegfried, directed by David Cromer, at Second Stage Theater.
(© Emilio Madrid)

But camp draws to a close. The couple’s relationship disintegrates as the summer comes to an end. Their “plans” for the future, like ours at that age, are brought to an end. That end can be bittersweet for some, but for these two the end is fierce. The confront the future and finally themselves. They have been changed by the experience and respond differently, as well do. This is the least engaging part of the play and the most distant from the characters we have seen. They act as if removed from the time period and reality of rest of the piece.

Camp Siegfried’s Senior Production Manager is Michael Catalan and the designs add greatly to the experience. They create a space that is both expansive and claustrophobic. It serves the emotions of youth excellently. Written by the wonderful Bess Wohl (writer of Grand Horizons), it walks the delicate line between young desire and family expectations. Director David Cromer brings the show to life with a light touch that lets the story develop naturally.

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