#33. When I think about the catastrophic events of World War II, I conjure up snapshots from ‘Night and Fog,’ a French documentary showcasing concentration camps. I still have nightmares of the living corpses, rooms of hair, and bulldozed bodies. The attempted genocide of the Jewish people is always my first association with Hitler’s evil reign. I don’t always remember his other global terrorism acts.
Lifeline Theatre presents the world premiere adaptation of HUNGER. The Nazis have taken Leningrad. The Russian community is being fed a steady diet of *superior race* propaganda. Rebel rousers are being identified, arrested and killed. The rest of the people are starving to death. A group of botanists make a pact to protect their research. They have spent their lifetime collecting and identifying seeds. Their specimens will ensure future generations don’t have a food shortage. As the 900-day occupation reduces the population, the scientists struggle to survive. Is their work more important than their lives? HUNGER gnaws at me!
Playwright Chris Hainsworth has adapted Elise Blackwell’s novel for the stage. Botanists as superheroes is an interesting angle for a historical depiction. Hainsworth detassels Blackwell’s story to expose the kernels of sustenance. The story focuses on John Henry Roberts (Ilya), a scientist that has risked his life for research. But that’s the past, what can research do for him now? Under the direction of Rob Kauzlaric, Roberts effectively rationalizes his current actions with intermittent flashbacks. (Designers Jessica Kuehnau (scenic) and Kevin D. Gawley (light) impressively illuminate the past and present with a dynamic laboratory.) Roberts’ fight to save his own life contrasts poignantly with his wife’s heroic efforts to rescue colleagues, babies and rice. Kendra Thulin (Elena) is a suffering lunatic. Thulin rants with heartfelt intensity. She expresses a lot of passion for a scientist. The rest of the talented ensemble rely on the occasional snarky comment, inappropriate laugh or swear word to show their human emotion. After all, they are scientists protecting their experiments. They wither but they don’t whine. Tensions build by the sudden appearances of police, corpses and mobs. Sound Designer Andrew Hansen adds his own edgy war soundtrack with explosions and original epic music.
HUNGER fascinated me. I’m sure I read a paragraph or two describing the Leningrad conflict. But the Russians suffering didn’t register in my American mind. HUNGER planted a seed in my head. A bit of an existentialist crisis sprouted. What is worth dying for? Is my lifetime of work pointless? I continue to ponder the answer. HUNGER could whet your appetite for life’s true meaning. For others, it might be lacking the spice to keep you satisfied.
A man with a steady diet of action heroes, Joshua J. Volkers describes it with ‘not my favorite.’
Running Time: Two hours and thirty minutes
At Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood
Based on the novel by Elise Blackwell
Adapted by Chris Hainsworth
Directed by Robert Kauzlaric
Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30pm
Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm
Sundays at 4pm
Thru March 25th
Buy Tickets at www.lifelinetheatre.com