A close friendship is meant to be a tower of strength in the difficult lives that we all lead, however sometimes it can prove to be defective to its foundations. This is the case in Kathrine Kressman Taylor’s 1938 novella ADDRESS UNKNOWN that has since been skillfully adapted for the stage by Frank Dunlop.
ADDRESS UNKNOWN documents an ill-fated friendship between a respectable, middle-class Jew and Gentile. Gentile Martin Schulse and the Jewish Max Eisenstein are two German expats and friends who have made a new life for themselves in America after Germany received a hammering in the Great War. They run a successful avant-garde art gallery in San Francisco. The play starts in 1932, and with Germany on the mend, Martin decides to leave the art gallery in the hands of Max and return with his family to Munich. He establishes a new career for himself in banking.
The play then follows the correspondence that takes place between the two friends over the next two years. Unlike the gentle correspondence that brought together Helene Hunff and Frank Doel in Hunff’s 1970 book 84, Charing Cross Road, the letters between Max and Martin document an increasing rift as Martin becomes steadily more subsumed in the Nazi movement spreading across Germany. Max spots Martin’s ambivalence to the Nazi’s treatment of the Jewish people and perceives a hitherto unnoticed anti-Semitic sentiment in his friend’s remarks. The fireside comfort and trueness of their long friendship is coming under threat.
Moira Blumenthal’s staging of Taylor’s razor-sharp narrative is assured and powerful. This is her deserved second season, with ADDRESS UNKNOWN first having played the Seymour Theatre in 2009.
Blumenthal wins strong performances from her two highly experienced actors. John O’Hare plays the sensitive, erudite Max Eisenstein with Patrick Dickson playing the status seeking, lily-livered Martin Schulse.
Barry French’s exquisitely detailed split set, we are half in Max’s San Francisco gallery and the other half in Martin’s Munich apartment is a delight. Together with Tony Youlden’s evocative lighting design and the director’s own astute choice of music to under-score the narrative; we are transported to the dark world that existed between the two World Wars.
A Tamarama Rock Surfers presentation in association with Moira Blumenthal Productions, ADDRESS UNKNOWN is at Bondi Pavilion Theatre, Queen Elizabeth Drive, Bondi Beach, until Saturday 24 March, 2012.
© David Kary
7th March, 2012
This review was first published, in an edited version, in the Sydney edition of the Australian Jewish News that was published on Thursday 8th March, 2012
Tags: Sydney Theatre Reviews- ADDRESS UNKNOWN, Kathrine Kressman Taylor, Moira Blumenthal and Tamarama Rock Surfers production. Bondi Pavilion Theatre, Patrick Dickson, John O’Hare, Barry French, Tony Youlden, Australian Jewish News, Sydney Arts Guide, David Kary.