The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title The Hiding Place
Organization One Way Productions
Date(s) of show August 8, 2014
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb

One Way Productions is an organization that produces Christian-themed dramas and musicals.  I hadn’t appreciated how popular they are until I arrived at the Harris Center last night and learned that The Hiding Place had sold out the day before.  It was only by chance that I was able to get a ticket that had been turned in minutes before. 

The Hiding Place is a memoir published in 1971 by Dutch-born Corrie ten Boom in which she described the experiences of herself and her family before and during the Second World War, particularly their harboring of Jews and their own suffering at the hands of the Nazis.  Ms. ten Boom survived the war, and took up the mission of healing its wounds (and learning its lessons), initially through running a home for camp survivors and other victims of Nazism, and eventually through writing and speaking throughout the world.  Her message was one of faith through trials and the ultimate triumph of love.

This play is a dramatization of ten Boom’s book by Ingrid Laurentiis-Wilson, founder of One Way Productions, and director of this performance.  I believe that much of the dialog in the play originated in the book.  That’s not a criticism:  the purpose of the play is to present the thoughts of Corrie ten Boom against the backdrop of her life experience, so quotations are the best way to accomplish it.  (I have not read the book, but after seeing the play, I found several websites with quotations from the book, and I recalled hearing many of them spoken by actors.)

While the audience was entering, this quotation from the book was displayed on a screen suspended over the stage:  “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”  Then before the action started, we saw actual photographs of the ten Boom family, emphasizing the fact that we were about to witness a true story.

One could immediately see the religious underpinnings of the story from the sign displayed in the set representing the family’s dining room:  “Jesus is victor.”  And then in nearly every scene there is an expression of Christian faith or Christian values.  For example, when Corrie discovers that the man she loved had become engaged to another, her father counsels:  “God loves Karel – even more than you do – and if you ask Him, He will give you His love for this man, a love nothing can prevent, nothing destroy. Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way, Corrie, God can give us his perfect way."

It’s an understatement to say that this is a serious play.  Apart from the frequent references to The Bible and expressions of Christian faith, there is the sobering depiction of the Nazi oppression, which generates an unrelenting intensity, especially toward the end.   When you’re feeling the tension of hiding from Nazis or shown the suffering of concentration camp inmates, you don’t feel like applauding.    So there weren’t applause at every blackout, as is so common in other dramatic productions – no applause even when the curtain closed for the end of the first act.  In fact, there were only two occasions of spontaneous applause during the production – following scenes of particularly intense acting.

Throughout the play, I felt that the writing was of very high quality.  It resulted in a natural dialog for the actors, and I was conscious of the constant forward motion of the action.  Even though there was a lot of what one might consider preaching:  I can’t imagine anyone feeling bored during the first act.  And the second act, taking place exclusively in prisons and concentration camps – was riveting.  One could not help feeling the intense psychological (and physical) suffering the protagonists were experiencing, and this is due to largely to the extraordinarily good acting of Talia Vlaovich as Corrie ten Boom and that of Krista Mackin as her sister, Betsie.

Despite the suffering portrayed, there were a few moments of humor, especially early in the action.  And several other moments of relief from the tension of the play came through Krista Mackin’s a cappella singing, during which she displayed an exceptionally beautiful voice.

Most fundamentally, though, any relief from the darkness came through the expressions of profound faith, such as these quotations from the book, which I believe were delivered verbatim during the play:  “This is what the past is for! Every experience God gives us, every person He puts in our lives is the perfect preparation for the future that only He can see.”  Here’s another:  ”Corrie, if people can be taught to hate, they can be taught to love! We must find the way, you and I, no matter how long it takes.”  Then there is the scene after Corrie has been released from the concentration camp, when she encounters a former Nazi, responsible for much suffering, who is asking for her forgiveness:  “Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him....  Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness....  And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.”

Performing this play was clearly a profound religious experience for the young cast (15 of the 20 were 23 years old or younger) – and no doubt for most of the audience, as well.  But it was also a very polished production.  The period costumes, elaborate sets, and occasional background music bespoke high production values to complement the excellent acting that I saw in every cast member.

This was a revival of a production that was performed at the Harris Center and in Davis last year, and I imagine that it will be staged many more times in the coming months and years.  I think that the reason this plays so well to contemporary audiences is that, although on the surface this is an historical drama, it is more fundamentally a presentation of the moral dilemmas of every human life and the Christian response to them:  faith through trials, forgiveness, and trust that love ultimately conquers hate.  That’s why all of us who had seen the show left, not exhausted and depressed, but inspired and uplifted.

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