Rusalka By Erika Phoebus
Planet Connections Theatre
The Clemente, The Flamboyán
107 Suffolk St, New York, NY 10002
Review by Alexa Garcia
Amsterdam 1943, two young sisters infiltrate an underground bar catering to jazz-loving Nazis. The Nazis who say they find an escape in the music they are meant to forbid. One particular SS Lieutenant welcomes a romance with one of the sisters not knowing the truth. These girls have been tasked to seduce him to a dark fate rather than a happy ending. Inspired by several true events sewn together to form an evening of music, dancing, boozing and secrets, Rusalka is an exciting piece of history, catharsis, and theatre.
Rusalka is a new play written by Erika Phoebus and directed by Isaac Byrne. It’s presented by Theatre 4 The People, founded in 2010 by the director Byrne. This production helps benefit Women For Women International who has helped more than 478,000 women in countries affected by war and conflict. The cast gave us a deep, sensitive and very realistic commitment peppered with enough humor to move the plot briskly. Live instrumentation in intimate venues like this made for a more realistic feel. Expert costuming by Ben Philipp contributed plentifully as well. At the top of their games were Ben Quinn (Paul), Harlan Short (Officer), Alana Rader (Jeanette, trumpet), Anna Stefanic (Clara, piano), Travis Emery Hackett (Teddy, percussion), Grant Winfield Parker (Henrick, bass), Elizabeth Kensek (Aletta), Chris Cornwell (music curator, Daniel), and Erika Phoebus (playwright, Nessa).
This is not the first Planet showing where the playwright or director join the cast and not the first time the cast pulls musical duty as well. Once a novelty for a few chosen Broadway musicals, this technique adds a sense of electricity to production and this one is surely an example. Phoebus does a great job in both acting and writing. Harkening back to Rosie the Riveter, Rusalka offers us the parable of how women can save the world as well as men … if not better.
Maybe the war would’ve ended sooner with women at the helm?
Maybe it never would have started.