Even Russian Politics in 1866 Can Be Funny, A Review of "Prussia, 1866"
by Megan Grabowski, Good News Reviewer
During the Seven Weeks War, in 1866, a Prussian victory meant many in the Kingdom praised the leaders who paved way for a new state. The Prussian parliamentary influence over the separation of Prussia from Austria and Germany, aided in revolutionizing the principals of the Enlightenment movement. The social, political, economic and cultural changes encouraged a rapid growth of free thinkers, including women. These women recognized the occasion to ride the coattails of this Enlightenment, and introduced many of the ideals we identify as fundamentals of feminism.
Prussia: 1866 is written to reflect the primal period of feminism.
Playwright Gab Cody vividly captures the essence of the time; the political atmosphere as well as the socio-economic status and religious diversities which commonly gauged the moral compass of females during the depicted time. Prussia: 1866 offers the audience a twist, telling the story in the manner of comedic farce.
Young Friedrich “Fritz” Nietzsche, played by Drew Palajsa, is studying in the home of his mentor Heinrich Von Klamp, a famous poet, novelist and political force. Fritz is having an affair with Klamp’s wife Mariska, a young seductress played by Laura Lee Brautigam. Rosemary, played by Cody, is a major influence in the women’s movement and Klamp’s writing assistant. Rosemary exercises her values by interjecting them into Klamp’s popular writing. Hayley Nielsen stars as the meek, protestant servant, who often draws out laughs from the audience by quoting her father’s interpretation of women, marriage and religion. Before the end of the play, she too finds herself intertwined in the domestic love triangle.
Sam Turich portrays the American Delegate and Rosemary’s secret husband. The comedic timing between Cody and Turich is noteworthy during the translation scenes. Another slapstick moment worth mentioning is the hilarious cacophony of absurdity in a final scene; books fly across the stage and the men rapidly undress in the name of Naturalism. Throughout the performance the characters sexual prowess, interlaced with romanticism, witty dialogue and a mildly bawdy tone had the audience howling in their seats. Furthermore, I would not be submitting an honest review if I failed to mention the brief but instrumental nude scene. Knowing ahead of time there would be nudity in the production, I assumed at some point I would find myself staring at an actor’s breasts. Without giving any more details away, kudos to Cody for sticking true to the feminist motives that layer this amusing performance.
Premiering on stage of the Rauh Theater this period piece is enhanced by the talents of Cathleen Crocker- Perry, costume designer, who ensures the cast is dressed in apparel reflecting the time and tone in an authentic style. Additionally, because the story takes place over the course of just one day, scenic designer Stephanie Mayer- Staley utilizes tall shelves filled with books, long drapes, elegant chaise and pillows as well as multiple doors, for the purpose of burlesque style humor; characters run amuck, wild witticisms frequently soar across stage and characters scheme to manipulate and entrap one another.
No real background in world history or philosophy is necessary to enjoy Prussia: 1866, just a sound sense of humor and an instrumental respect for funny women and the men who love them. This is a great show for a date night.
"Prussia: 1866" runs from February 5 through February 22, 2015. Information on ticket sales and show times can be found here http://www.pittsburghplayhouse.com/current-season/the-rep.
Reviewed by Megan Grabowski
Positively Pittsburgh Good News Reviewer, Professional writer, Social-Media Junkie, Community Fundraiser and Pittsburgh Enthusiast.