United Players
Taken at Midnight by Mark Hayhurst

Dates and Venue November 2 – 26, 2017, 8pm; Sun Matinées: Nov 12, 19, 26 at 2pm | Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery Street

Director Michael Fera Set Design Allyson Fournier Costume Design Kate Pierre Lighting Design Michael Methot Sound Design Kanon Hewitt Fight Choreography Mike Kovacs Stage Manager Jasmin Sandhu

Reviewer John Jane

Taken at Midnight is a historical drama by British playwright Mark Hayhurst. The play uses a device of parallel, concurrent story-telling that covers a period of roughly six years prior to the commencement of WWII. Essentially, it centres on Jewish lawyer Hans Litten, from the time he was first taken into “protective custody” at Sonnenburg, until his eventual suicide in Dachau concentration camp. He was arrested around midnight of the Reichstag fire in retaliation to his controversial subpoena of Adoplf Hitler to appear as a witness in a criminal trial in 1931.

The play’s lateral story is perhaps even more extraordinary, as it focuses on Irmgard Litten and her heroic attempts to confront Gestapo hierarchy in order to rescue her son from the brutal treatment at the hands of SS (Schutzstaffel) guards.

The production places the political narrative in the capable hands of Suzanne Ristic as part of her role as Irmgard Litten, without which it might be difficult to follow her character’s interchanges with other players. Ristic conveys tenacity and moral authority without resorting to histrionics. What humour that there is in this play, is delivered subtly by Ms. Ristic.

Sean Anthony invests himself completely in the demanding role of Hans Litten. Anthony displays Litten’s physical downward spiral with incredible nuance. Brian Hinson acquits himself well as the high ranking Gestapo spin specialist. He manages to uncover the numerous layers of this complex character as well as adequately handling the Teutonic accent. Richard Hersley and Michael Kahn each bring a certain timbre to Jewish antimilitarist anarchist Eric Muhsam and pacifist and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Carl von Ossietzky respectively.

Director Michael Fera, together with Kate Pierre’s authentic clothing provide an uncompromising verisimilitude to the politically stifling atmosphere of pre-war Berlin. Allyson Fournier’s triple-tableau set is, depending on where one is seated, not easy to see in its entirety. The stage is split between a roughly built wooden structure that serves as Hans Litten’s prison, Frau Litten’s living room and Gestapo official Dr. Conrad’s office. Sections are separated by imposing red swastika banners. As the action switches between scenes, Michael Methot’s lighting seamlessly adjusts with it.

Hayhurst’s play equivocally ends at the beginning with a verbatim account of the cross examination between Litten and Adolf Hitler. It’s an event that could have served as a caution to the world. In Frau Litten’s words spoken through Suzanne Ristic: “like all self-righteous men, they are the most sensitive to offense.”

© 2017 John Jane