Not since Mel Brooks’ outrageous “Springtime for Hitler” has there been a holocaust musical as ill-conceived and badly performed as “No Time to Weep,” now on-stage at L.A.’s Matrix Theater.
“No Time to Weep” is the autobiography of a sweet, eternally upbeat Czech poet, Lucy Deutsch, who survived Auschwitz, came to America via Israel, married and divorced, and created a successful handbag manufacturing company.
Deutsch is played as a 14-year old and on into middle age by Caitlin Gallogly, who has a pleasingly well-trained voice, and as a 65-year-old businesswoman by Christopher Callen, who, inexplicably, is the only actor in the large cast who speaks with an Eastern European accent.
As the play begins, Deutsch’s girlish frolicking is interrupted by the dreaded knock on the door, and she and her parents and siblings are carted off to the concentration camp. There is a lot of wild-eyed screaming and unconvincing terror, but, unfortunately, the actors portraying the “menacing Nazis“ are mere cardboard caricatures of themselves, overacting to absurdity.
In the camp Deutsch is befriended by five fellow inmates who spend the rest of the first act curled up in balls, weeping. Periodically, they pause in their weeping to sing — at least 67 times — the title song, “No Time to Weep.”
This goes on for nearly 90 minutes.
In the second act Deutsch, freed from the camp, is sitting with a group of people who are never introduced. Sitting around the table, they sing a song about the children who didn’t survive. It’s a moving song, but a totally static scene.
Spontaneously, Deutsch goes off to Israel with one of the men at the table, marries him, divorces him three minutes later, and moves on to America.
On the boat she meets a man who becomes a lifelong friend, but after 10 years she still refuses to marry him. Shortly thereafter he dies.
But the oddest moment of all is the ending. Deutsch, the successful businesswoman, is working at her desk when her secretary, whose role until then has consisted solely of announcing Deutsch’s visitors, suddenly enters to announce that she has to leave early. To which Deutsch amiably assents.
“No Time to Weep” obviously pushed some buttons in the audience. There were little pockets of gasping, sobbing women. But in my view, Director Ivor Pyres totally missed the mark. The actors were disturbingly overacting, trying too hard. Their timing was hesitant, the pacing was draggy, and their movements were lacking in precision and crispness. One didn’t expect them to do cartwheels, but a little light choreography might have helped. Whoever heard of a musical (even a melancholy one) where people sing while sitting down, or standing, unmoving, in a row?
For this production there was no standing ovation.
“No Time to Weep,” a Guest Production of the Matrix Theatre, will continue Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. through June 3. The Matrix Theatre is located at 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. Call (323) 960-7780 for tickets, or reserve online at www.Plays411.com/notime.
Cynthia Citron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.