I WANT THE WHOLE WORLD TO SEE THAT I CAN CRY!
nytheatre.com review by Julie Congress
"You are grown up now. You must endure! You must be strong!" Erna’s
mother leaves her seventeen year-old daughter with these words as she
and Erna’s father are being forced from their home by Nazi officers.
Eventually, Erna will be left on her own in the Krakow Ghetto, three of
her brothers having escaped and the rest of her family having been
"liquidated": murdered or deported to the camps. Yet, despite it all,
Erna is strong. She endures labor camps such as Mathausen,
concentration camps such as Auschwitz, and death camps such as
Bergen-Belsen. She endures cattle cars and death marches. She endures an
absolute hell so horrific it’s almost incomprehensible.
August 15, 2003
All of this is portrayed vividly, chillingly, and poignantly on the stage in I Want the Whole World to See That I Can Cry! An elderly yet vivacious woman, Erna (who now goes by Ester, her Hebrew name) is seated, peacefully knitting. The sudden sound of thunder momentarily preoccupies her, reminding her of the sounds of guns and shelling during World War II. She tries to go back to her wool, but she can’t concentrate on it. Finally, she begins to speak to the audience. Accompanied by pictures and film clips projected on the wall behind her, she shows us Poland, her house, her family. She begins to tell us of her experiences as a teenager and, as she does so, she is joined onstage by that younger version of herself. Together, they tell us her story.
The cast is extraordinary. Lucille Patton perfectly encompasses Ester, while Kathy Searle gives a remarkable performance as the young, resilient Erna. Kurt Bauccio is terrifying as every Nazi in the play, jolting us in our seats with his fierce German commands.
The set, by Rebecca Tanaman, is quite simple, and yet, partnered with the flawless direction of Moni Yakim (with Associate Director Mina Yakim), you can clearly visualize everything. In one scene Erna is at a morning roll call in a concentration camp. Searle stands alone on stage, yet we see the thousands of emaciated prisoners.
The play, written by Miri Ben-Shalom, is based on the personal journals of Ester Herschberg, formerly Erna Holtzberg. At the very end, we see a filmed interview with the real Herschberg in which she reiterates the message of the play: we must never forget.