Blonde Poison has a fascinating history, but it lacks dramatic tension | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

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Blonde Poison has a fascinating history, but it lacks dramatic tension

A real-life Jewish "catcher" for the Gestapo never takes compelling shape in this Agency Theater Collective production.


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Nicknamed "blond poison" by the Nazis (her "Aryan" good looks—blond, blue-eyed—belied her Jewish heritage), Stella Kübler-Isaacksohn was a "catcher" for the Gestapo during World War II. Using her cunning, charisma, and connections she ferreted out fellow Jews—people who had gone into hiding in Berlin—and turned them over to the authorities. For this she was promised a bounty of 300 Reichsmark for each person apprehended, and the continued safety of her parents, a promise the Nazis eventually broke (her parents died in the Theresienstadt concentration camp).

It's a fascinating story. But not the way Cindy Henkin tells it in her often awkward dramatization of Kübler-Isaacksohn's life. Oh, the facts are there; Henkin clearly has done her homework. And actor Marie Weigle makes a very convincing Stella. But the tale Henkin and company tell is just not very compelling. Henkin focuses on a series of interviews between Stella and a woman suspected of being a "submerged" Jew, interviews that could, in the hands of a crafty writer, have been the foundation for an intense psychological drama. That is not what happens here. Instead of a riveting high-stakes game of cat and mouse, we are given a series of dreary conversations almost devoid of drama.

It doesn't help that director Sara Faye Richmond's cast seem like they are just going through the motions, doing the script without really feeling it. There are moments, to be sure, that we see sparks fly. Some of the encounters between Weigle and Alison Schaufler (who plays the woman being interrogated) threaten to burst into real theater, but those moments are few in a production marred by a weak script and serviceable but not amazing staging.  v

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