Review: ‘Here There Are Blueberries’ reveals banality of evil

“Here There Are Blueberries,” a play conceived and directed by Moisés Kaufman, tells the true story of an album of pictures that was despatched to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2007.

The sender, a retired United States Military intelligence officer, discovered the album shortly after the warfare when he was residing in Frankfurt, Germany. Nearing the top of his life, he believed the gathering of images from the Auschwitz focus camp can be of historic curiosity. He was proper, although it took some spectacular detective work to disclose the worth of what had been gathering mud in his archives for greater than 60 years.

The play, which is having its world premiere at La Jolla Playhouse in a co-production with Tectonic Theatre Challenge, meditates on the various points of this disturbingly resonant story. Kaufman, the inventive director of Tectonic, and Amanda Gronich, a constitution member of the corporate, co-wrote the script, which hews to the factual report whereas taking inventive liberties for the sake of dramatic readability, economic system and power.

The authors labored intently collectively on “The Laramie Project,” the groundbreaking nonfiction drama concerning the 1998 homicide of homosexual College of Wyoming scholar Matthew Shepard. In “Here There Are Blueberries,” they deal with with braveness and compassion the character of murderous complicity on an unfathomable scale.

The story of the album is instructed from the vantage of the researchers who’re piecing collectively details about the figures within the images. The pictures, that are integral to the play, obtained a lot consideration when the information broke of their discovery that the museum’s web site crashed.

Rebecca Erbelding (Elizabeth Stahlmann), an archivist on the museum, is initially skeptical of the declare that the images are from Auschwitz when she’s first contacted by the donor. However after the album arrives, her consideration is seized by a photograph of Josef Mengele, one of the crucial wicked medical doctors of the Third Reich.

Beforehand, she explains, there had been no photographic proof of Mengele at Auschwitz. Sensing the import of what was despatched to her, she consults with a senior colleague.

A more in-depth have a look at the images by Judy Cohen (Rosina Reynolds), the director of the museum’s photographic assortment, reveals a central determine in upholding the Nazi regime, Rudolf Höss. As Judy explains, “He built Auschwitz, and he ran it for years. He’s responsible for everything we think of as the camp: the barracks, the guard towers, the electrified fences, the extermination infrastructure … the whole organization.”

The album incorporates 116 images with captions in German. The figures within the images aren’t the prisoners however the individuals who ran the camp. Peculiar Germans, bonding collectively on the job, participating in official ceremonies and having fun with leisure actions. The images present a haunting illustration of what the thinker Hannah Arendt famously known as “the banality of evil.”

Photographic evaluation augmented by ingenious analysis results in the conclusion that the album belonged to Karl Höcker (Scott Barrow). A former financial institution teller, he rose to turn into a prime administrator of Auschwitz — motivated, it appears, not by ideology however by the profession opportunism of a petty bureaucrat.

Kaufman and Gronich deliberate on the various historic and ethical questions that the real-life Rebecca and her colleagues grappled with as they intently studied the album. The extra data they uncover, the extra they battle to know the truth earlier than them.

There is specific curiosity in a lodge that was constructed to offer a spot for Nazi officers to trip with their households to alleviate job stress. This rustic leisure stands in stark distinction to the grim actuality of the crematoria blowing smoke just a few miles away.

A photograph of ladies who labored within the camp as phone, telegraph and radio operators captures them doing calisthenics with a glance of relaxed bonhomie. One other reveals them on a bridge in uniform exuberantly gathered as a person performs the accordion.

What did these folks learn about their place of employment? Specialization of labor allowed the employees to disclaim any information of what was occurring at Auschwitz. However because the researchers reveal, their ignorance was a handy ruse.

A photograph of Höcker on the lodge serving blueberries to feminine personnel (the caption supplies the play’s title) is all of the extra horrifying for seeming so serene. The smiling faces recommend a utopia, however these are the managers and custodians of a residing hell.

The USA Holocaust Memorial Museum was set as much as keep in mind the victims of the Nazi genocide. The workers is due to this fact pressured to look at whether or not it’s proper to dedicate area to a group of images of perpetrators.

How ought to historical past be recalled? Ought to those that enabled atrocities have their names and faces blotted from the report? Finally, the museum workers deems it essential to name consideration to the best way on a regular basis residents have been corrupted by ideology, self-interest and a conspiracy of lies. How else can humanity be prevented from falling once more into darkness?

“Here There Are Blueberries” extends itself maybe too far in following the tales of descendants of Nazis coming to phrases with their heritage. The construction of the play assumes the elasticity of a PowerPoint presentation, scattering focus.

Though this isn’t a verbatim drama, interviews are the supply of the dramatic materials. The enhancing hasn’t but reached its optimum kind. However the power of the work is much less within the dramatic writing than within the creation of a contemplative theatrical area.

Kaufman, who’s the son of a Holocaust survivor, infuses his firm with a quiet ethical objective that had me shedding tears for a lot of the manufacturing’s 90-minute operating time. An ensemble of eight, with every actor taking over a number of roles, majestically balances thought and feeling.

Pictures are projected onto Derek McLane’s set, which strikes from the museum’s analysis workplace right into a realm of fluid reminiscence. The images are dropped at life aurally in addition to visually, with forged members contributing to the soundscape. However what’s strongest is the best way silence is interwoven. Kaufman conducts this impeccable manufacturing with symphonic subtlety.

The sincerity of this collective effort powerfully communicates the grave significance of this trove of artifacts nearly misplaced to time. Historical past is as soon as once more knocking. Will we unstop our ears and study from the errors of the previous?

‘Here There Are Blueberries’

The place: Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse, 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, UC San Diego, La Jolla
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. 2 and eight p.m. Saturdays. 2 and seven p.m. Sundays. By means of Aug. 21.
Tickets: $25 to $62
Contact: (858) 550-1010 or
Working time: 1 hour, half-hour