Zeitgeist Stage Company just upped its already-impressive game with their superb current production of “Bent,” a Holocaust tale of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals.
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The play opens in pre-World War II Germany, on what appears to be a typical morning after in the Berlin apartment of Max and Rudy. The lovers discuss how they’re going to pay the rent, the previous evening’s escapades and the leather-boy Max brought home though claims he doesn’t remember.
Wolf, the young (naked) trick, brings more than late-night debauchery to the couple. His political affiliations lead to trouble for all three, as Max and Rudy are forced to run for their lives, with Max ultimately landing in Dachau.
Mikey DiLoreto is both hilarious and heart-breaking as the flamboyant, free-spirited dancer Rudy. From the flip of a limp wrist to the gut-wrenching screams of horror, DiLoreto displays impressive range in his stellar work.
An especially gaunt-looking Brooks Reeves delivers a flawless, disturbing turn as Horst, the resigned gay prisoner Max meets at Dachau, who, while awaiting his fate, changes Max forever. In one of the show’s most poignant moments, Horst explains the hierarchy of the pink triangle and yellow star symbols prisoners are wearing to Max, noting that “pink is the lowest.”
As Max, Victor Shopov delivers a performance that is as close to perfection as live theater gets. His transformation from slimy, hustling party boy to proud man owning his truth and his fate is spellbinding. The palpable frustration of his powerlessness, his ability to survive in a concentration camp and the sheer physicality of the role make Shopov utterly exhausting and exhilarating to watch.
Director David Miller creates a haunting atmosphere with a slow, methodical pace and a stifling, claustrophobic set that offers no escape, even for the audience. The placement of the guard at Dachau is, perhaps, the most disturbing, chilling and brilliant element of this incredible production.
If you go
Through Oct. 11
BCA Plaza Theatre
539 Tremont St., Boston
$25 - $30, Wednesday pay what you can