"Sexing Hitler" Review by Karen Hauge

Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about the Nazis, here comes Sexing Hitler, the nearly unbelievable true story of a team of scientists’ efforts to create a lifelike inflatable sex doll for Nazi soldiers to carry with them into battle. A concept like that almost defies the need for a review to garner fresh audiences, but I will digress over what was truly a must-see Fringe debut.

The year is 1941, and Nazi SS Heinrich Himmler (Andy Garrison) is presented with a problem: his soldiers are being threatened off the field as well as in battle. The culprit? Why, syphilis, of course, which is running rampant through the troops due to their unwavering patronage of French prostitutes. Himmler sets Dresden scientists Dr. Arthur Rink (Parry Luellen) and Senta Schneider (Marcie Ramirez) to an unusual and top secret task: to create a lifelike inflatable doll for soldiers to enjoy instead of the prostitutes, thereby keeping the troops healthy and strong enough for battle. The incredible ridiculousness of this idea is echoed in the musings of the scientists, who struggle to make a doll that is lifelike and satisfying, not only to keep soldiers healthy but also to prevent the conception of any children with the blood of a good German man and a dirty French whore.

The one-act, hour-long play is darkly funny and well composed, with a cast of six and a small band providing quirky reactive and mood-setting music. Off Center Theatre is bare, the only props being a few black boxes moved around between scenes by the actors. The actors’ performances are universally excellent, and naming standouts is impossible. Garrison as Himmler is deeply funny as the leader demanding feminine perfection in the doll; his character also functions as a narrator, speaking in verse (and I do love a good rhyme scheme) and sits down for interludes with various eugenicists from around the world, played with hilarious variety by Christian Hankel. Hankel delivers the sometimes shocking quotes of these scientists with earnestness that served to highlight the cruel reality of the worldwide history of race-purifying endeavors.

Luellen as the quivering, unimaginative Dr. Rink is perfectly awkward as he experimented uncomfortably with the idea of a sex doll, and his dynamic with Ramirez as his no-nonsense, insightful colleague is appropriately quirky. Eric Tedder and Amy Hurrelbrink play multiple roles throughout to great effect, with Tedder portraying various soldiers given the dolls to “test out” and Hurrelbrink playing Himmler’s mistress as well as each iteration of the doll, which comes to life as the fantasy of each soldier.

Sexing Hitler is definitely a must-see for its combination of ridiculous hilarity and truly fascinating historical material. The use of adult language and subject matter leads me to advise against bringing your children, but get a babysitter and come down to Off Center for a night with a very original new play.

from KC Metropolis

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