Acacia Theatre Company’s moving production of Bradley Winkler’s "The Hiding Place" performs at Concordia University Todd Wehr Auditorium now through March 25 – and the timing unfortunately couldn’t be any better.
Adapted from John and Elizabeth Sherrill’s heartbreaking book, "The Hiding Place" is as essential to Holocaust literature as Anne Frank’s famous diary, painting a painful yet accurate picture of this incomprehensible historical period. Based on a remarkable true story, the play centers on the ten Boom family, who, in war torn Holland, bravely shelter Jews in their intimate home until their hiding place is discovered.
In short, it might be a good idea to have a few tissues on hand. Although there are some lighthearted (and, considering the subject matter, very welcome) moments scattered throughout the first act, this play is utterly tragic. But in this case, that is the most sincere complement I can pay this performance.
The Acacia cast shines under the superior direction of Therese Goode, who prepared to tell this story by immersing herself with the real-life events of the ten Boom family, the historical period they lived in and how their actions resonate in the 21st century. "We have just as much need today for the faith and courage the ten Booms showed in fighting against those in power to protect the oppressed and disenfranchised," Goode says. "I tried to listen to the voices of marginalized people and those fighting beside them for justice."
This inspiration is clear within every scene of "The Hiding Place." Every actor beautifully handles the weight and significance of the material in every moment of the performance, perfectly honoring its real-life subjects. Sisters Corrie and Betsie ten Boom are the true standouts; their portrayals by Elaine Wyler and Janet Peterson are constantly impressive and genuine, making it easy for an audience to instantly sympathize with their cause and motivations.
The set and the costumes also perfectly support the narrative. While Sarah Bremer’s simple staging adequately sets the scene while allowing your imagination to fill in the blanks, the character’s costumes, designed by Marie Wilke, give subtle aid in conveying each character’s distinct personality. Special mention must also be given to the outstanding sound design. Colin Kovarik cleverly makes use of radio broadcasts and thematic music that add realistic and impactful touches throughout the show.
And whoever’s idea it was to have the Gestapo’s raid at the conclusion of Act One take place in slow motion – bravo. It was a wonderful way to add enormous tension to an already tense sense, and the cast performed if flawlessly.
To say that "The Hiding Place" is a shocking show is an understatement. To pretend that there aren’t parallel themes between this production and our current political climate is naïve. That’s one of the many wonderful things about this show. "The Hiding Place" not only encourages a healthy, political dialogue to occur, but it dares you to cast the roles into modern times, allowing you to formulate your opinions in the real world. It’s up to you to decide who qualifies as a Corrie ten Boom, or even a Lieutenant Rahms, in 2018.
No one leaving the Todd Wehr Auditorium can say that this show is for the faint of heart, but it should not be. After all, our modern culture certainly doesn’t shy away from controversy, chaos and the anarchy that we once saw during World War II. But that’s what makes Winkler’s work, and Acacia’s interpretation of it, so powerful. "The Hiding Place" teaches its audience valuable and timeless lessons about how we can repair the damaging patterns our culture becomes engrossed in. Briefly immersing ourselves in the horrors of the Holocaust is the least we can do to not only honor its countless victims – and ensure that such tragedies never happen again.