Synopsis: Set in Vienna, Leopoldstadt takes its title from the Jewish quarter. This passionate drama of love and endurance begins in the last days of 1899 and follows one extended family deep into the heart of the 20th Century. Full of his customary wit and beauty, Tom Stoppard’s late work spans fifty years over two hours. With a cast of 38 and direction by Patrick Marber, Leopoldstadt must not be missed.
Tom Stoppard’s latest play to grace the Broadway stage, Leopoldstadt, follows a Jewish family from 1899 through to 1955 as they deal with life in Austria. The story takes place over 5 set years; 1899, 1900, 1924, 1938, and 1955. The family in Tom Stoppard’s work deals with assimilation in Austria and the rise of antisemitism running through the veins of the country leading to the rise of nazism in the country. What results is a perfectly crafted play that has you invested in each member of the family, right up to the emotional devastation of 1955 when the surviving members of the family discuss the toll the holocaust and antisemitism had on the survival of the family.
Helping to set the period is the scenic design by Richard Hudson. Hudson faces the daunting task of transforming the room where the entirety of the action takes place throughout a 66-year time frame. Hudson’s ability to convey the period and what was going on at the time helped to progress the story along without being muddled by over-the-top scenery allowing the work to speak for itself.
While Stoppard’s work was written as an ensemble piece, there was quite a several stand-out performances within the work. Brandon Uranowitz’s portrayal of Ludwig, the family mathematician/husband to Eva, was connected to both the material written and his fellow actors, but it was in the final scene when he portrays Nathan, the son of Sally and Zac, that he drives in the emotional turmoil and devastation of the holocaust and how it impacted his family. David Krumholtz’s portrayal of Hermann, a man who runs a factory and married a Christian woman to assimilate, bears the brunt of the antisemitism as he tries to distance himself since his baptism and is met with the lingering hatred of the Austrian people. Lastly, Jenna Augen’s portrayal of Rosa, the daughter who went to live in America during the 20s, showcased a gut-wrenching performance dealing with the survivor’s guilt felt by those who were out of the country during the Austrian annexation.
Overall, it is hard to find many faults in the play performed on the Longacre theatre stage. It ebbed and flowed with moments of levity and joy only to come down and provide gut-wrenching devastation. Tom Stoppard’s latest work can be called nothing short of a masterpiece. Not much more can truly be said about this standout performance other than I expect it to be a strong contender for the Tony award.
Leopoldstadt earns a solid 5 out of 5 stars. Honestly, if there could be a higher score given, it would solidly earn it.
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