Saturday, April 26, 2014

REVIEW: Cedar Tree's "The Hiding Place" Should Be Discovered

So, I'm traveling down 63rd toward one of my favorite coffee shops and I pass a church (Northside Baptist) and this big banner is taped over its reader board. The sign is advertising: "The Hiding Place" Live, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. for $7 by the Cedar Tree Drama Team.

I've never heard of Cedar Tree, but I am familiar with "The Hiding Place." I was first introduced to the story through a comic book version in the 1970s, then I saw the film, then I read the book, then I heard Corrie ten Boom (the author of her memoir of the same name) speak.

I had never seen the play, adapted from ten Boom's book, by Bradley Winkler.

The Topic

You may not be familiar with this work that is similar in topic to the books, films and stage plays "The Diary of Anne Frank" (by Anne Frank) and Lois Lowry's "Number the Stars," tales surrounding the efforts to save the Jews from the Nazi's during WWII. All very good plays.

I think the topic is of current relevance because, frankly, I am worried about what Putin is doing with his "registration" of all Jews in the Ukraine. Evil, scary stuff (that we should do something about).

At any rate, here I was cruising by with my Friday evening open. I'm curious, like I said, so I plan to come back, having no idea what quality of production I might be in for.

When 6:30 p.m. rolls around I am at the ticket table for a seat. I find out that the Cedar Tree players are students from a local Christian School in Ridgefield, Wash. (Cedar Tree Classical Christian School). I choose my seat--a pew midway back center--and glance at the program. Surprise! There are a few names I recognize. I look at the lighting overhead (eight PAR cans), and at the "stage." There is no grand curtain at the chancel, only some pipe and drape in the back, a couple of accordion partitions, some mismatched contemporary furnishings and a few props--including a really ugly thing I finally decide must be an old-time radio (which is essential to the story). The play begins promptly at seven.

The Tale

Whitne' Moussan, as Corrie ten Boom, takes to the stage giving an opening speech on forgiveness. The time is 1964 at a church in Ravensbruck, Germany. The soliloquy is delightfully delivered and once it's over she is approached by Jarad Unger, playing a former SS officer (whom she recognizes, with horror, from her past), asking for her forgiveness. She speaks out her inner turmoil and the scene transitions to her experience years earlier (1940-44) in Holland as the Germans prepare to invade.

The ten Boom family becomes involved in the underground operation to save the Jews and Corrie is the ring leader. They create a hiding place off of her bedroom for concealing the Jews they take in, steal ration cards to feed them, etc. Someone snitches them out and the Nazi's come searching. The Jews get to safety, but the ten Booms are arrested. End of act one.

Act two chronicles the plight of Corrie and her sister Betsy in Scheveningen Prison and their transfer to Ravensbruck Women's Extermination Camp where the pair suffer many brutal hardships. Corrie learns from her sister that every cloud has a silver lining and that God has brought them here for a reason. Little Miss Sunshine-Pollyanna, right? No, actually, for "God causes all things to work out for good for those who are called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28).

The play ends back at where it began and Corrie is faced with her bitterness toward this man who was once her tormentor. Will she...can she forgive him for the audacious crimes he has comitted?

The Talent

Yeah, it's pretty deep and heavy stuff. And the cool thing is, amazingly, these middle school and high school aged kids pulled it off. There wasn't a terrible performance in the show and all performed well. Especially good were the leads: Jarad Unger (in a couple rolls), Amanda Joseberger (as Betsy), Gavyn McIntsoh (as Papa ten Boom) and Whitne' Moussan (as Corrie). McIntosh and Moussan were both exceptional actors.

Ironically, I directed the 16 year-old McIntosh's father and mother in a play before he, and his younger brother Cia (also in the show), were even a twinkle in their parent's eyes. I'd say the apples don't fall far from the tree.

Moussan carried the show, providing much in the way of narrative dialogue. She probably delivered close to half of the show's lines, didn't drop a word (or at lease it appeared so) and presented them with sincerity and appropriate emotion. I've named these standouts, but, really, there were many good players. The direction by Beth Kaler was interesting and inspired, better than most.

The Tech

While opening night had it's glitches with wireless mics and light cues, the players could be heard and seen. There were a couple of nice effects in lighting suggesting an air raid and train travel. A pair of followspots were used somewhat effectively to light many scenes. The set wasn't much to sneeze at, but the costumes were generally good overall. Makeup was good (especially Papa's). The sound effects, too, were nicely chosen and executed.

The Tag

I'd suggest you see this production, however, there's just one problem: I'm writing this on Saturday morning (April 26) and tonight's performance at 7 p.m. is the last of the two shows. It is a shame they didn't do more advertising and are not running the show a second week. With quality and material this good the troupe deserves more attention. I look forward to hearing about their next production (hopefully, well in advance).

Tickets are available at the door for $7 (a real deal). The show plays at Northside Baptist Church on 63rd St. in Vancouver, Wash. You might call 360-887-0190 for more info.

By Gregory E. Zschomler

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