ATP’s latest examines past guilt

By Katherine Zelt

Set in Paraguay in 1969, East of Berlin is a play about a young man named Rudi who sets out on a life long path of redemption after discovering the atrocious past his father lived throughout the Second World War. Hannah Moscovitch’s production explores the power of guilt and the inner conflict it can elicit through the character of Rudi.While the story of the play focuses on the young protagonist and his struggle to find inner peace, it sheds light on broader, timeless questions pertaining to humanity and questions our abilities to cope with our past.

Rudi shares a series of events with the audience that all point to him trying to redeem himself for his father’s actions. Through the use of intense monologues and flashes between the past and present, Rudi’s heartbreaking struggle to cope with this shocking revelation is revealed to the audience.

“I think Rudi spends a lot of time running away from his problems,” says Rylan Wilkee, who plays Rudi in the Alberta Theatre Projects production. “One thing in this play is that Rudi does weave a sort of a web of lies to other people he meets, but when he talks directly to the audience he never lies. He tells them the truth. He uses [the audience] to tell his story.”

Wilkee says the power behind the play comes from the fact that it asks questions about guilt rather than answering them.

“In life, I don’t think there is such thing as a right answer, but it does ask those hard questions and [Moscovitch] is telling the story from the point of view of the German side, which you know is risky,” he explains. “Those children too, in a sense, were victims of their parents evil. A lot of them, like Rudi, at the time in 1945, was only 10 months old. So he had no idea he was raised that way in Germany so I think it’s great to ask those questions and I don’t think there is an answer. I think it’s good to leave those up in the air for the audience to decide what they believe is the right or wrong thing to do.”

Wilkee creates most of the production’s skillful message to Moscovitch’s talent as a writer.

“I think [Moscovitch] is fantastic and so smart and so sharp and really gets to the point,” he says. “I think she’s one of the best out there right now and she’s just beginning. I think it’s just a really powerful kick to the stomach and I’m looking forward to seeing how Calgary audiences react.”


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