June 20, 2023
Review: 'Incident at Vichy' a Compelling Play for Today
Joe Siegel READ TIME: 3 MIN.
Head Trick Theater's "Incident at Vichy" is a taut and gripping drama set in the middle of World War II.
Playwright Arthur Miller ("Death of a Salesman") explores the dilemma of people choosing between their own self-preservation and the desire to protect their fellow human beings from harm.
10 strangers – nine of them adults plus one boy – have been detained in a police station in Vichy, France. They don't know for certain why they are there. We meet Lebeau (Chris Ferreira), a high-strung painter; Bayard (Darby Wilson), an electrician; Marchand (David Weber), a businessman; a Romani (Kevin Hernandez); a waiter (Julian Trilling); and Monceau (Emily MacLean), an actor.
It turns out the French police are collaborating with the Nazis and are searching for Jews.
Marchand is relatively nonchalant, insisting to his fellow detainees the police are merely conducting a "check-up." He notes there have been a lot of people in Vichy with "false papers."
One by one, the police captain (Samantha Acampora) takes each of them into a back room for questioning. The businessman goes in without hesitation and is later released.
The waiter resists and is taken by force, never to be seen again. We hear screams from behind the door.
During the Holocaust, there were those who stood by silently while the Nazis herded up Jews and homosexuals so they could be shipped off to concentration camps and be executed.
The main conflict in "Incident at Vichy" is between Leduc (Blanche Case), a psychiatrist, and Von Berg (Neal Leaheey), an Austrian prince.
Von Berg is sympathetic to the Jews' plight, but Leduc believes that he possesses some negative beliefs about Jewish people. "All this suffering is pointless," Leduc says at one point.
"Their motives are musical," Von Berg says of the Nazis. "People are the sounds they play."
Case and Leaheey bring depth and poignancy to their characters. These men are from two different countries, but develop a friendship in the midst of tremendous suffering.
Ferreira ("The Diary of Anne Frank") is also compelling as the painter struggles to comprehend what is happening in his life.
MacLean displays fiery passion in her scenes, especially when Monceau says he doesn't believe the Nazis would kill Jews because it's not logical.
Andrew Conley is chilling as a German officer in charge of the detainees.
Director Rebecca Maxfield ("The Assemblywomen") maintains a constant sense of tension as these characters try to fight – and accept – their fates.
"Incident at Vichy" has a lot to say about the violence and degradation inflicted on others, as well as our moral responsibility to speak out against injustice. There's a creeping fascism happening in our country now, with book bans and attacks on women's rights and LGBTQ+ rights by one political party.
History is repeating itself. This play shows us how we need to be vigilant regarding the prejudice that threatens our lives.
"Incident at Vichy" runs through July 2. Head Trick Theatre. Matthewson St. Black Box Theatre. 134 Collaborative@134 Matthewson St., Providence, RI. For tickets, visit headtricktheatre.org.
Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.