Theatre ARTaud presents a night of Das Kabarett in the form of a variety show, The Private Life of the Master Race directed by Esther Jun, on stage at the 2018 SummerWorks Festival. The show is based on the Bertold Brecht classic anti-Nazi play Fear and Misery of the Third Reich.
Like the Brechtian play, this production features a series of vignettes exploring life in 1930’s Socialist Germany from the lives of average workers to families close to the government trying to keep their heads above water. In between in vignette, magic, burlesque and musical interludes are there to entertain.
Upon first watching this performance, much of Private Life feels disjointed. I know that the focal points lie with the vignettes but as they happen and and I work on deconstructing them in my mind, the interludes take the stage and I’m distracted by the ‘ooh shiny’ of magician Keith Brown’s slight of hand tricks or St Stella (Stella Kulagowski) lustful hip shakes and scintillating reveals to the sound of balloon popping.
Each element is a lot of fun to behold — Brown’s a great magician and his final card trick caught the whole audience off guard. Kulagowski is a fantastic burlesque performer. She’s sexy, sassy and sensual with a great knack for commanding a stage and enticing a crowd. I’ve seen her most recently taking a leading role in Carmilla during this past Fringe Festival and love seeing her again. Her interactions with stage kitten Kitty Britty (Brittany Cope) both vying for crowd attention were quite amusing.
And then there’s the Constellation of “S” Ensemble who take on the vignettes. A few of the scenes that were part of Fear and Misery are played out in this production. There are a couple that certainly stand out — The Spy where two bickering parents panic upon noticing their child is missing and worry that he’s gone to report them to the SS, they grow suspicious when he returns home with chocolate; and The Jewish Wife where a woman agonizes about how she will tell her husband she is leaving him to save his career, he assures her he will only be gone for three weeks and then hands her a coat she won’t need until the following winter.
Jasmine Chen and Craig Pike take on the quarreling parents in The Spy and they deliver a great performance in particular with how shrill and panicked their exchanges escalate to when the possibility of being arrested by the SS looms over their heads.
In The Jewish Wife, the wife’s conversation with her husband are seen through monologues from her perspective. Her words change hands from actors Jennifer Dzialoszynski to Chen and then to Rouvan Silogix each offering a new nuanced perspective to the unnamed character.
There are still other moments, like a wonderful acoustic rendition of Katy Perry’s “Roar” and an audience singalong at the end, that I don’t see any bit of cohesion with the rest of The Private Life of the Master Race. But, I guess that’s the off the wall beauty of cabaret?
SummerWorks tickets are now Pay What You Decide at $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level. Tickets are available at the performance venue (cash only), online, by calling 416-732-4116, and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West), open August 9-19 from 12pm-8pm. Cash and credit accepted.
Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 4 shows.
Photo provided by the company