Hitler won World War II.
The statement alone is chilling, and so was the Williamstheatre production of Craig Raine’s modern tragedy 1953.
Performed March 5-7 and 12-14 at 8 p.m. in the AMT Downstage, 1953 is the culmination of a year’s work by the Williams College Theatre Department’s senior seminar. Directed by Associate Professor of Theater, David Eppel, the senior theater majors in the seminar not only acted in 1953 but were also responsible for every aspect of the play’s production including set design, lighting, sound, and costume design.
Raine’s 1953, is a challenging work to tackle. An updated version of the Euripides’ tragedy Andromache, 1953 examines the turmoil in Europe caused by a hypothetical victory of the Axes Powers in World War II. In Berlin, Hitler remains in power. In Italy, Benitto Mussolini’s son is sovereign, and in London, there is no longer a British government as Italy and Germany have conquered the country.
The play opens to the sounds of combat boots pounding against metal and angry shouts blaring over a loudspeaker. As uniformed guards armed with machine guns march across the stage, a militaristic, prison-like atmosphere is evoked. The eerie scene is part of the foreign, apocalyptic world found in the palace of Vittorio Mussolini in post-war Rome.
1953 portrays one day in the palace life of Vittorio Mussolini. In order to strengthen the alliance between Italy and Germany, Mussolini has promised Hitler that he will marry a German princess named Ira. However, Mussolini has fallen in love with Annette LeSkye, mother of the half-Jewish heir to the British throne, who is a captive at his palace. Mussolini promises to protect LeSkye and her son if Annette will only profess her love for Vittorio. The action is confused by the arrival of Orestes, Ira’s former lover. He brings a message from Berlin saying that Hitler wants Annette’s son to be brought to Germany immediately. If the boy is not delivered, the Germans will wage war on Italy. As in any classical tragedy, before the day’s end, passion and misunderstandings have metamorphosed into rage, madness, and certain doom.
Bold and intense describe the well-rehearsed performance of the actors in the senior seminar. Each scene is provocative, striking the audience’ssense of propriety/ with austere and occasionally crude dialogue recited in verse. The bleak subject matter and at times uncomfortably intimate physical interplay between characters create a feeling of uneasiness that would jar the sensibilities of even the most complacent audience member. Let the senior seminar’s powerful of performance of 1953 send chills down your spine.
Tickets for this weekend’s performances are $4.00, $2.00 with a Williams student ID. Tickets can be purchased at the AMT Box Office or at the Baxter Mailroom between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. each weekday.