“Red Tape Theatre’s artistic leadership has a knack for creating relevant works that offer important critiques on the sociopolitical issues of today. This latest production continues that pattern by dusting off source material about human suffering that accompanied the world’s first tango with industrialized trench warfare — just as we’re grappling with new concepts of violence at the hands of weaponized trade, immigration and environmental policy.
With a terrific, diverse ensemble cast led by the electric Elena Victoria Feliz in the role of Paul, this rendering of Mr. Remarque’s novel leverages music, rhythm and special effects to humanize a band of German soldiers on the wrong side of history. Familiar pop tunes with themes of war, movement and strategically placed smoke dissolve nationality and “siderism” into a universal parable of fear, longing and inevitability. Agnostic of time or place, the troops dance the haka to communicate wild male aggression, and it works. We understand that when so much is unknown, it’s psychologically safest to keep moving, to stay muted and guarded.
So much of this understanding is communicated through Ms. Feliz’s eyes. It could be easy to dismiss her mostly silent role, but the performance and her character are the production’s moral, emotional and physical center. Paul is the omniscient narrator who knows how the story of the 2nd Company ends, even as he’s living it, stoically following through every chapter with empathy and tremendous sadness. This earns Paul the respect of his platoon and solidifies for the audience that Paul’s is the balanced perspective through which we should collectively process the experiences we see onstage. Ms. Feliz achieves this narrative feat using very little more than eye contact with her fellow actors, the folks in the cheap seats, even with the sound engineer. This young actress is going to do big things.”