It’s been a really busy month – six productions a week to catch – so we haven’t had time to mention the fine workshop of The Tin Drum, presented by UnSpun Theatre with the help of Equity Showcase.
The Günter Grass novel is a major work, in length as well as scope, so the company focused on the first of its three books.
Adapted by director Chris Hanratty and performer Shira Leuchter with the company – UnSpun functions as a collective – the show is as episodic as the novel, with events narrated by Oskar Matzerath, an inmate in a mental hospital.
Oskar determined on his third birthday that he would no longer keep growing. That same day he received the drum of the title, which figures prominently in the story, as does Oskar’s glass-shattering voice. Set in Poland in the decades leading up to the 1930s, the workshop ends with Kristallnacht, an early Nazi action against the Jews.
The presentation is story theatre, with Oskar’s often surreal narrative acted out by the cast, many of whom play several roles.
Tricia Lahde as his mother and Leuchter as his grandmother are particularly poignant, as is Gregory Prest as circus “royalty” who understands Oskar’s dilemma and offers him advice. Sascha Cole embodies a troupe of figures, among them Oskar’s asylum attendant, a demanding school teacher and a mysterious somnambulist.
But the focus is rightly on James Cade as the mischievous, intense Oskar, whose vibrant performance ties together the show’s diverse sections. The shortest member of the cast, which suits the character’s stature, he’s an intriguing and believable Oskar, whose shrill scream is voiced chorally by the cast.
In fact, some of the effects are among the workshop’s most striking moments. Crumbled paper becomes a burning fire, light shining through blue glass takes us underwater, water poured in a bucket becomes a rainstorm. The final moment, when all the set except Oskar’s asylum bed becomes the Kristallnacht bonfire, is especially striking.
At that point the story is intentionally cut short. Let’s hope we get to see it all in a full production.