TotalTheater.com says Acacia’s We Will Not Be Silent is “a powerful intense drama” that is “definitely worth the trip”.
March 24, 2023
We Will not be Silent
Opened: March 10, 2023
Ended: March 26, 2023
Company/Producers: Acacia Theater Company
Theater Type: Regional
Theater: St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church
Theater Address: 7845 North River Road
Running Time: 75 min
Author: David Meyers
Director: Janet Bouman Peterson
Acacia Theater, Milwaukee’s Christian-based theater company, presents a powerful and intense drama, We Will Not Be Silent, in the intimate downstairs performing space at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in River Hills.
Although River Hills is a bit of a drive from downtown Milwaukee, this production is definitely worth the trip. The play is based on a real-life (but little-known) Nazi resistance movement during World War II. Called “The White Rose,” it was led by a college professor and enacted by a handful of his students in 1942. The White Rose was one of a number of resistance movements that existed throughout Europe, but it’s the one that existed – briefly – in Germany itself.
As the play opens, a young college girl, Sophie Scholl, is being interrogated by a Nazi military man, Kurt Grunwald. They are sitting across a wooden table from each other. At first, Sophie is quite believable as she resists any attempts to tie her to some anti-Nazi leaflets floating around Munich and other parts of Germany. She portrays herself as an innocent girl who focuses only on her studies. However, Grunwald slowly reveals pieces of information that link her to the White Rose. Undaunted, Sophie keeps deflecting Grunwald’s questions.
In this cat-and-mouse game between Sophie and her interrogator, Grunwald uses various techniques in an attempt to get at the truth. As Grunwald, the formidable-looking Jason Will commands the audience’s attention. Grunwald is a key figure in determining the path this play will take, and Will’s performance keeps the audience glued to their seats.
At times, Grunwald tries to sympathize with Sophie’s plight. When this doesn’t work, attempts to intimidate her by displaying rage and frustration. He keeps reminding Sophie that, if she doesn’t tell him all that she knows, he will be replaced by an SS man who won’t be so “nice” in his efforts to get her confession.
Grunwald’s interrogation continues for two days. Sophie, who is forced to stand against a wall for the entire time, is also deprived of water, food and rest. She appears woozy. As Sophie, actor Giovanna Greco is completely convincing. Greco perfectly encapsulates this 19-year-old girl, who clings to the edges of her pink sweater as if trying to fortify herself against an attacker. Even in her time of exhaustion, she displays a feisty demeanor that Grunwald finds as curious as it is infuriating.
The interrogation is briefly interrupted by visits from Sophie’s brother, Hans (AJ Magoon). He rushes into her interrogation room and promptly tells his sister to save herself. He has signed a confession that absolves Sophie of her involvement.
Sophie, thrilled to see her brother, is momentarily overcome with relief. However, she demands the right to also die for her principles. “An end in terror is preferable to terror without end,” she says. She stands firm in her beliefs, despite Hans’ efforts to change her mind.
Director Janet Bouman Peterson wisely tempers the intensity of Sophie’s interrogation with brief black-outs that are filled by various unseen voices. The disembodied voices replicate the leaflets’ messages to the German people. Some of the messages denounce the Nazi killing of Jews, while others are focused on the general oppression of the Nazi regime.
The show’s premise has many parallels to current trends in the United States and elsewhere, but audiences are left to make their own conclusions about this. The play makes it clear that these brave German young people, with their entire lives ahead of them, understood and accepted the risks accompanying their actions. It’s unfortunate that these defenders against tyranny did not live to see the end of the war. Today, a memorial sculpture in Munich commemorates the White Rose resistance movement.
Cast: Giovanna Greco (Sophie), Jason Will (Grunwald), A.J. Magoon (Hans).
Technical: Set: Ashley Petrowsky; Costumes: Katlyn Rogers Kelly; Lighting: Dan Hummel; Sound: Colin Kovarik.
Critic: Anne Siegel
Date Reviewed: March 2023
Read the review on their website here.