Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Applause! Applause! Review of Lucie Pohl's Hi, Hitler at Under St. Mark's Theater by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens

This review of Lucie Pohl's Hi, Hitler at Under St. Mark's Theater was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 5 (2015) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!

Hi, Hitler
Written & Performed by Lucie Pohl
Directed by Jessi D. Hill
Technical Director: Ian Wehrle
Under St. Mark's Theater
94 St. Mark's Place
New York, New York 10009
Reviewed 11/3/15  

One hook to obtain publicity and audience for this show, besides the provocative title, has been the well-advertised fact that Lucie Pohl is "Bertold Brecht's real life niece" and that, as such, she "yearns for normalcy." This claim is pure fiction. Lucie Pohl, daughter of Klaus Pohl (an actor and playwright from Bavaria) and Sanda Weigl (a singer from Romania), was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1983. Egon Weigl, her grandfather on her mother's side who fled the Nazis (moving from Berlin to Bucharest and marrying Irina Weigl after World War II), was the cousin of Helene Weigel, Bertold Brecht's second wife. Helene encouraged Egon to move his family to back to Berlin (GDR) from Romania in 1961. Bertold Brecht died on August 14, 1956 and his wife, Helene Weigel, died on May 6, 1971 - many years before Lucie was born. I will leave it to you to figure out the exact relationship between Lucie Pohl and Bertold Brecht.  Requests to Ms. Pohl to fill in the lineage for me have gone unanswered.  

The title of the show comes from the fact that at age 4, her favorite two things were candy and Hitler. She even wanted to dress up as Hitler for Halloween and always thought people were saying Hi, Hitler when they were really saying Heil, Hitler (not that many people were saying that in East Germany in the 1980s). She claims she was even born with a mustache and loved to draw Uncle Adolf when she was young. They even called her "Little Nero" for her dictatorial ability to get people to do whatever she wanted. She claims her house was always full of drama and that when she was upset, she would go and watch herself cry in front of the hallway mirror "because that's what you do in a theatrical family." She tried to maintain her sanity as a child through her efforts to indulge in the bliss of the domestic tranquility of the families of her friends while trying to distance herself from the chaos of her own family. Lucie Pohl referred to this continuing drama as The Pohl Family Circus, of which she found herself in the center ring at age 19 when she made the questionable decision to become the mistress of Fabian, her aunt's 31-year-old boyfriend.

She describes her father as being an alcoholic and a philanderer and her mother as a very proper, non-drinking, Romanian Jew. As a young child, she lived in Germany. She was thrown out of kindergarten because her mother continued to bring her to school late. Lucie said, "When it comes to punctuality, my mother was super-Romanian." When the school scolded her mom, she told the school administrator, "This is a kindergarten, not a concentration camp, you Nazi", after which she found herself promptly expelled. In 1992, when she was 8 years old, her family moved to New York City, and at age 18, she returned to Germany to study acting. After the family scandal, she traveled to Greece and hung out on the beach smoking weed. She returned to New York City with Odysseus, her new Greek lover, whereupon she applied for a green card. She told Mr. Shapiro, the immigration official interviewing her, "I feel like New York City is my home," to which he responded, "You might think this is your home, in your head, but Homeland Security doesn't think so!"

Lucie Pohl is very animated and expressive when describing her feelings of being an outsider and an alien wherever she went. She has a very strong stage presence. However, there is a basic failure in her writing to properly develop the idiosyncrasies and personalities of her characters. We don't get to know any of them too well. In addition, the stories she has selected from her life are just not that interesting. They don't captivate the attention of the audience nor do they contain any real life lessons. Ms. Pohl is a talented actress full of charisma and energy. Nevertheless, in my opinion, she needs to dig deeper, to be totally honest, and to include more stories in her act that are actually funny. As it stands, there isn't anything very substantive left once you scratch away the surface of her material. I left the show not having been emotionally moved, not really knowing much about the people in her life, and most devastatingly, not really having laughed all that much, which was quite disappointing.  

Lucie Pohl's Hi, Hitler has been nominated for the 2015 New York Innovative Theatre Foundation's Award for Outstanding Solo Performance. Two additional performances have been added - November 27-28, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. at Under St. Mark's Theater. Tickets cost $18.00 ($15.00 for Students, Seniors & Military). You can purchase  them at 

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