"Sexing Hitler" Review by kellyluck

The history of the inflatable sex doll is a grotesque but interesting one. As far back as the seventeenth century, sailors were carrying homemade "Dames de Voyage" with them on long trips. In the 20th century, we begin to see commercially manufactured ones, with careful attention to detail extending so far as fluid secretions by way of concealed pumps, etc. But the inflatable doll we generally think of nowadays traces its origin straight back to the Third Reich, where it was developed as a means to combat the ongoing threat of syphilis. It is this story that Sexing Hitler tells with wit, thoughtfulness, and yes, even a little charm.

Heinrich Himmler (Andy Garrison gleefully strutting the line between swagger and camp) orders Dr. Arthur Rink (Parry Luellen) and Senta Schneider (Marcie Ramirez) to develop a "comforter" for the troops so they will stop patronizing French Prostitutes. "We are losing more men to the 'French disease' than to the French guns!" Despite the sheer awkwardness of the assignment, the two work together, managing to produce an item and begin putting it through the rigorous testing with a series of soldiers (all played ably by Eric Tedder), each of which reacts to the doll in his own way. As the project drags on, and more and more uncomfortable truths about gender and sexuality are dragged to the light by way of the doll, Himmler becomes impatient. He wants - demands - the doll be more than a simple comforter. It must be an inspiration, a very model of the Germany to come. It must be the muse that sends the men forward across Europe and the world.

The creative team behind the play are no strangers to the Fringe, and their experience shows. Bryan Colley and Tara Varney have written some very memorable productions, and this will no doubt be another one. The script is sly, witty and incisive and even sympathetic by turns. Interspersed with the historical events portrayed (it is based on the actual history of the doll) are a series of rather notorious quotations on eugenics by various intellectuals and luminaries, performed by Christian Hankel. These provide perspective as the researchers labor to build the Aryan Dream.

Special notice must be given to Amy Hurrelbrink, who doubles as The Doll, and as Haschen Potthast, Himmler's secretary/mistress who ultimately becomes its model. She flips between the roles easily, morphing from gynoid to tittering arm candy almost without break. It is interesting to compare the dual roles: as the story progresses, each becomes the template upon which others impress their desires. In a play filled with strong performances, she is nonetheless a standout.

It takes a certain nerve to pull off something like this, not to mention a not inconsiderable amount of skill. Fortunately, the story is in excellent hands. Definitely a highlight of this year's Fringe, Sexing Hitler is not to be missed.

from KC Stage

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