The Covenant is inspired by a true story in which Red Cross members were deceived about the lives of Jewish inhabitants during a visit to the Czechoslovakian town of Theresienstadt in 1944.
At its core, The Covenant by Alice Abracen and directed by Murdoch Schon, is about betrayal. The characters, whether they believed in a supreme being or not, had the Holocaust to blame for a breach of belief, a breaking of the covenant between the Jewish people and their God.
This breaking of good faith is personified by Hilda, played brilliantly by Holly Gauthier Frankel. She is a believer who, as a doctor (married to the Mayor of the fantasy of Jewish life in Theresienstadt), witnesses the wearing down of principals and the abandonment of her people by everyone, including her God.
Peter, her husband, is worn down by the Nazi assigned to “decorate the ghetto,” for a visit of the Red Cross. His swift descent into compliance with the Nazis, with futile hope of actually saving lives, is performed wonderfully and intelligently by Jonathan Silver. Brett Watson who plays the Nazi is not quite as sharp in his reversals, and his betrayal at the end is neither shocking nor cathartic. Romi Shraiter is believable as the young woman who wishes to “go East”, but stays for a while. The character of Karla (Laura Mitchell), a butch comedienne who survives by telling acceptable jokes, seems to have been dropped into this play from some other work. Mitchell is convincing and moving in her performance, but she appears to have walked off a different play and joined us by mistake.
Abracen is a remarkable playwright who has written a biting play about a subject which is, at best, very hard to manage. The only draw back is that the rhythm of the piece did not provide an adequate climax and the catharsis it so richly deserved. The direction was uninspired and the pacing of the play was consequently slow and unresolved.
For an audience unfamiliar with Theresienstadt, this work is a fine introduction to another horrific tale of the Holocaust. It is a well written work and addresses one of the hidden horrors of the era; the betrayal of the Jews by some of their own.
Produced by Theatre West End at the Segal Centre Studio from November 13 – December 3. Tickets and info available HERE