Anna Gelman directs the world premiere of I Am Going to Die Alone and I Am Not Afraid, an ensemble-devised play about the Holocaust that feels hauntingly contemporary. A mostly bare stage decorated with lines full of white and beige clothing hanging near the rafters—left as if forgotten by a whole neighborhood suddenly vanished—hosts a versatile group of six actors, who tell, sing, and dance tales of resistance, bravery, and survival. Based on firsthand accounts of the Holocaust, these brief scenes oscillate seamlessly from gallows humor to heartrending sorrow without ever feeling preachy or plodding.
Using flashlights, chalk floor drawings, and rudimentary props, this ensemble manages to bring a particular people’s suffering to life in a way that feels both universal and, sadly, entirely of the moment. A sequence in which stick-figure images of people have their eyes punctured, then spotlit by flashlights is an indelible evocation of the end of childhood innocence. Schoolchildren’s accounts of friends here one day, gone the next are gutting in their plainspoken pain.
In a time when so many societal forces are hell-bent on dividing us along tribal lines, this powerful piece of theater shows how sharing the tribulations of one people must give all people pause. The final scene tells the story of Prague’s Pinkas Synagogue; afflicted by floods for centuries, it now houses a memorial of 78,000 handwritten names of Czech victims of the Shoah. These names must be rewritten every few years as the waters wash them away. I can think of no better metaphor for the function of art—to remind us, as this play does, to keep the memory of the fallen fresh and remember the horror we’re all capable of. v