Max, played exquisitely by Patrick Arnheim described, “I kissed her soft dead lips, her breasts just beginning” as he proved to a group of drunk SS soldiers he wasn’t “queer” on a train to the concentration camp of Dachau. Bent is a story of transformation and emotional connection in a period of time deemed so horrific that survivors have spent their lives hiding behind the nightmares, trying desperately to forget the moral compromises needed to stay alive. This two act play tells stories which culminate into an enlightened moment of love in a place where souls are lost and the choice between life and death is clouded by insanity.
With a delicate use of lighting and shadows, a psychedelic cinematic themes and music, 1930’s Berlin was recreated to set the mood for an incredible story of survival and love. To many, the rise of Adolf Hitler and the unspeakable acts of torture, mass genocide, humiliation, emotional isolation and sacrifice of the human spirit by the Nazi Party is a period of history we can never forget and one so difficult to re-create. With a flash of courage, Director Jay Danner, brought the words of Martin Sherman’s Bent, to life.
Bent centers around Max, played by exquisitely by Patrick Arnheim. Max is a carefree playboy, whose dependance on alcohol and drugs, loose men and living by the seat of his pants attitude is all he ever knew until the day his world changed. With two shots fired and years on the run, Max and his partner Rudy fought every day for survival. In an evolutionary transformation, Max’s life and everyone he knows change drastically over the course of the following three years. From a tiny one bedroom apartment to the isolation of a dirt floor and electrified fence, Max lost everyone and everything, including his will to live.
What he discovered after is the story of Bent.
Breaching such difficult subject matter was a challenge for this production. During strategically placed moments throughout, subtle lines of humor were unleashed to provide emotional relief to the audience. These penetrating innuendos and jokes helped bring a sane balance to the actors and comfort to the crowd.
Much like Max, the other characters of Bent were flawed. Rudy, played by Brandon Martin, Uncle Freddy, played by Nat Jones and Horst played with riveting emotion by Randy Risher, showed imperfections shaping their unique personalities. Ultimately, they were all transformed.
People of Jewish faith and culture and those who identify with the gay community were pertinent and polarizing parts of the historic make-up of the period, and 75 years later, these two groups remain marginalized. Today, we fight racial and religious injustice and moral objection to certain lifestyles. We continue to fight prejudice and hate. It is a war that will not end, but we must keep fighting.
Therein lies the message of Bent that the audience will take away. Love sees no color, no creed, no gender, no religion. Love is an objective experience we cannot escape. Once it grabs a hold, we are taken to places we cannot control. . . places of happiness. . .places of security.
In one very poignant moment, Max finds serenity in the gentle but worn arms of Horst. Surrounded by guns, torture and hatred, he found love.