Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Bent opens in the 1930s Berlin apartment of Max (Anthony Contento) and Rudy (the touching Craig David Rosen). It is morning and Max can't really remember the night before, though he picked up a man named Wolf for sex, and he's still in the apartment. Without giving too much of the plot away, things take a sudden and drastic turn, and Max and Rudy are soon on a run for their lives from the Nazis.
The first act includes short scenes specifically devoted to various characters in Max and Rudy's lives. Nick Byrne is just right as Wolf, though his stage time is brief (and tragic). Also figuring into the plot are Greta, a drag performer, played superbly by Tony Bosco-Schmidt, and Max's gay but closeted Uncle Freddie (the fine Dana O'Neal), who attempts to help Max get out of Germany. These brief scenes eventually and nightmarishly lead to the main characters having to finally face the Nazis.
The second act takes place in a concentration camp where the audience is introduced to Horst, portrayed by the talented Joe Russo. Horst has a pink triangle on his uniform, signifying his homosexuality; he is one of the lowest of the low according to the Nazis. The balance of the play shows Max and Horst alone onstage, but under the careful watch of a Nazi captain (played terrifyingly by Nick Byrne) and two soldiers (the equally frightening Nick Kaye and Dan Patterson).
It is in the scenes between Max and Horst, working together in the concentration camp, that this production truly takes hold. Their growing relationship is the most searing and effective part of Bent. A sexual tension builds between the two men, though they must keep from even looking at each other as they work. Playwright Martin Sherman has written one of the most erotic scenes I have ever seen in a play, involving Max and Horst, miraculously accomplished with the two men simply talking to each other and standing on opposite sides of the stage. One truly comes to care deeply about these characters and both Anthony Contento and Joe Russo give sterling performances.
Director Will Jeffries has done a wonderful job with his actors and, even though this production is somewhat scaled down, scenic designer Donna E. Glen can be commended for the various sets, with the one in the concentration camp being the most memorable. Rebecca Pokorski's costumes are ideal, and lighting designer Jonathan Curns has done an especially striking job of illuminating the specific scenes. Bent can be an uncomfortable and heartbreaking play to sit through, but Brookfield Theatre for the Arts has done a super job of getting to the heart of this play, and the experience of seeing it is bound to stay with you long after the final curtain has come down.
Bent continues performances at Brookfield Theatre for the Arts in Brookfield, CT through May 13, 2017. For tickets, please visit www.brookfieldtheatre.org or call the box office at 203-775-0025.