Reviews - Fringe 2015

Fringe 2015 Review: Der Zug

By John Bandler
Published July 19, 2015


Well-known local performer Valeri Kay offers us the results of her very first playwriting venture: Der Zug. Translation: "The Train."

Her original piece, some 20 minutes long, depicts a journey taken by two very different sisters (Patti Cannon and Valeri Kay) from Berlin to Salzburg, via Munich. They are very different personalities indeed. These sisters also seem to know little about each other, in particular about key aspects of their ancestry.

Initially, on their train's approach to Munich, the sisters chat about this and that. About the trip, about the nearby, former concentration camp Dachau, about its surreal motto "Arbeit Macht Frei," and what that means (in English), and they explore in some detail a cliché that I first remember hearing in the 1950s, namely, that Hitler (at least) made the trains run on time.

They also dwell on an observation that shocked me, as someone who has travelled to Germany since the 1950s: that it was hard for the sisters to find a German who spoke any English. Apparently this is true even as late as 2004, when this drama is supposed to be taking place.

Somehow, Hitler making the trains run on time impacts the storyline. This thought sticks in these sisters' minds. It is also essential to note their hardship in communicating in English with modern-day Germans - in particular, with anyone travelling on their train.

This lack of communication leads to the confusion and terror that the plot seems to require when the train breaks down, and when the drama moves into its surreal mode.

Given the venue and subject matter, the acting, the staging and the live music are most appropriate, and serve this piece well. Given the power of words, for example, like Dachau, the possibilities for evoking audience empathy are endless.

John Bandler is a professor, engineer, entrepreneur, innovator, researcher, speaker, artist, and author of fiction and non-fiction. Four of his plays have been performed at Hamilton Fringe Festivals. Some of his talks and clips of his plays are available on the internet. See www.bandler.com.

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