When We Will Not Be Silent opens on an interrogation room, it’s not too far of a stretch to assume that, at the same time the characters ask questions of each other, the play will ask questions of the audience. But when We Will Not Be Silent spends just as much time tiring the audience with circular questions as it does with the characters, it’s a lot more frustrating than it is thought-provoking.
True to its name, the show—which runs through Nov 4 at the New Repertory Theatre—is almost entirely dialogue-based. Originally written and directed by David Meyers, Jim Petosa takes over the reigns for this drama buttressed with truth by research and historical accounts. We Will Not Be Silent follows the interrogation of Sophie Scholl (Sarah Oakes Muirhead)—a German college student charged with leading the White Rose, a nonviolent resistance movement. Scholl is being interrogated by Kurt Grunwald (Tim Spears), an officer in the Nazi party.
Over the course of the play, Scholl and Grunwald go back and forth, at times discussing the merits of their favorite philosophers, and at times getting into all-out screaming matches with each other. Scholl won’t confess to any of her actions—or at least only until she realizes her brother and co-conspirator Hans (Conor Proft) is in the interrogation room adjacent. Then it’s a matter of to what she will or will not confess, and who to implicate.
With this confused and emotional look at the value of truth, character, and cause, We Will Not Be Silent attempts to weave together a clear sense of right and wrong, or of good and bad. At time it sheds doubt on the implications of resistance and makes efforts to humanize Grunwald. While it’s understandable that a play would try to nuance its way through a historical account, at the end of the day it’s still hard to humanize Nazis. Sure, Grunwald might be sympathetic to their fight against Hitler, and perhaps he’s flawed by some tragic backstory, but the historical context of We Will Not Be Silent works against it.
The play also never really seems to get anywhere. Every time something occurs that might be construed as a new development to further the plot, Scholl and Grunwald walk it back. This drags the audience along on a string, only to end with the realization that it’s been walking in circles. Plays don’t always have to go somewhere, but it feels like We Will Not Be Silent should.
Story issues notwithstanding, Oakes Muirhead and Spears did a very good job in their roles, with the former nearly stealing the entire show as Scholl. Her portrayal was at times both strong and vulnerable, confident and doubtful, and most of all believable. This dichotomy of emotion was particularly striking—she acted much as we might expect a real person to act, perhaps because Scholl was a real person. Spears also performed well but was hindered by what could only have been direction. On a dime, Spears would turn from a shouting tirade of aggression to a kneeling plea for help from Scholl. This might be explained away the first few times as part of his character’s interrogation technique, but by the end of the play it was only confusing and slightly annoying. Proft played only a small role as Hans, but he acted as a welcome reprieve from the interrogation scenes.
While We Will Not Be Silent aims for what might have been a thoughtful and critical look at resistance backed by an explicit and implicit reference to a Kantian grounding of morality, the play itself falls far short of its mark. Hindered by circular motion and weary repetitions, We Will Not Be Silent doesn’t have much to add to the conversation.
WE WILL NOT BE SILENT. THROUGH 11.4 AT NEW REPERTORY THEATER, 321 ARSENAL ST., WATERTOWN. NEWREP.ORG