By Gaby Febland
Review by: Diana Rissetto.
Directed by Alex Benjamin
I have written three plays that include both “Holocaust” and “comedy” in their descriptions. Some people automatically assume the worst when they see such a pairing of words, that play is likely offensive and insensitive, but my own belief is that we need to use different methods to tell stories that are heartbreaking, painful and shameful. Laughter is often the most powerful way to get through to people.
The Lilliput Troupe is a shining, brilliant example of using humor to bring powerfully to life one of the darkest and most shameful periods in history.
In one of my Holocaust-themed plays, the characters discuss the Ovitz family. Several people asked me if I had made up the story, and my response was always the same: “How could ANYBODY make up this story?”
The Ovitz family included of seven siblings, all Little People, who had a popular vaudeville act in the 1930’s and 40’s. After the family had been taken to Auschwitz, they were able to survive by becoming favorite experiment subjects of the notorious Dr. Mengele.
The play is told in flashbacks. It is after the war, and the family is recounting their memories of the death camp, intertwined with the story of Snow White. Aaron Beelner, who plays Arvrim Ortiz, also plays Dr. Mengele, called “Uncle” by the siblings. He is sickly fascinated with the family. They are allowed special privileges and all live to see the end of the war.
In a haunting monologue, the luminous youngest sister Perla (Sofiya Cheyenne) tells us about Dr. Mengele’s post-war life, and acknowledges that while he was a monster, he was still responsible for the family surviving. Dwarfism, the family realizes, was not a disability, but a blessing.
The Lilliput Troupe is haunting, ingenious and beautifully and bravely done.