by Martin Sherman
directed by Alan Patrick Kenny
New Stage Collective
There's a twisted thread running through human nature that too often revels in persecuting people who are different. A thread in the spirit of some that necessarily answers this tendency, one that might be bent but not broken despite vile treatment, often counters it. That’s the focus of Martin Sherman’s 30-year-old play Bent, getting its first-ever professional Cincinnati production by New Stage Collective (NSC).
Five of the six actors in NSC’s production are college students. Their youth is appropriate for the principal roles, although when several of them double as officers, it makes less sense. But the horrific brutality of the story comes through with glaring, disturbing clarity: Man’s inhumanity to man can go down some very dark roads. Equally evident is the indomitable nature of the human soul to find companionship and love despite seemingly insurmountable obstacles. York and Moldovanski’s scenes in the play’s second act, standing side-by-side making love with words, never touching, are a testament to human need and will.
It’s sad that the attitudes in Bent are still present: Although our world is a better place, the rhetoric of hatred and the mind-games necessary to escape it remains. It’s high time for this play to come to Cincinnati audiences. Critic’s Pick.
‘Bent’ — the current production of New Stage Collective is neither a perfect play nor a perfect production, but it is funny, poignant, thought-provoking and educational.
The first act is fast-paced, funny and eventually violent as we follow Max and Rudy on their journey, while the second act is slow (too slow at times), static and thoughtful as Max and Ernst carry rocks, avoid attention from the guards and draw closer even while they can’t touch each other.
“Bent” isn’t the kind of play that you leave feeling great about the world, but the ending is just hopeful enough to allow us some optimism about the strength of the human spirit.
Photos by Mikki Schaffner