It was not that long ago that a play that posits Nazis taking over the American government would have been thought too silly to take seriously.
That was before we had a president who said there were some "very fine people" among the white nationalist and neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville in 2017, after one of them fatally rammed a car into a crowd of counter-protestors.
Since then, we've seen the president insult NATO and other allies, and embrace autocrats such as Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un and Rodrigo Duterte. We've seen the idea of white nationalism blossoming, instead of hiding under slimy rocks.
So, Kopp suggesting that Nazis might take control of the United States seems like an all-too-timely warning. Thankfully, the play is packed with laughs.
Kopp makes a brief appearance in the play, as a drunken Nazi who comes into the library where everything takes place, to complain about a book his daughter had checked out.
"This book is filled with witchcraft and works of the devil. My little girl started reading it and now I have to deal with this bull---t. Why the f--- was this in the kids' section?!"
The book, of course, was "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
Librarian Ruth, played calmly and earnestly by Stephanie Crowley, defends the book, and the Nazi continues his rant, insulting the library assistant, Sidney, played by Jennifer Sorkin-Kopp.
"Hell girl, do you even own any makeup? If you smiled more I bet you would look pretty, who knows in time you might even get a boyfriend."
Sidney responds, "How could I ever fall in love knowing you are already taken?"
Tough luck for the Nazi: He has interrupted a meeting of the Nancy Wake Book Club, populated by women who are dedicated to reading fine books and killing Nazis.
Such a great concept.
Nancy Wake was a New Zealand-born Allied spy during World War II who killed a lot of Nazis. In the play, Ruth mentions her, and Russian school teachers and nurses who became snipers to kill Nazis. "Women killing Nazis is nothing new," says Ruth. "It's just part of the story. If these walking abortions want to glorify a page from history, I say we show them what's on the next page."
The play opens with Keith Larson as Todd, doing a smooth voiceover encouraging people to blow their whistles if they see more than two Muslims speaking to each other, "colored folk" out after sundown, or Mexicans working without papers. The voiceover is paid for by the Evangelical Nazi Church of America. Too subtle?
The four women who comprise the book club at first are all wonderfully played, each with her own well-portrayed personality, and each an experienced Nazi killer.
Crowley's Ruth is the leader of the book club. She keeps order in the meetings, reminds women to support each other and tells us she has killed 20 Nazis. "The only reason I haven't turned myself in is because I'm not done killing Nazis."
Sorkin-Kopp's Sidney had gotten tired of people telling her how she should behave and likes working for Ruth. And likes killing Nazis. Heather Mae Steffen is funny but strong as Diana, a yoga teacher who loves books and who'd killed a Nazi who'd attacked her. Pear founder Diane Tasca is delightful as Betty, a seemingly dithering somewhat older lady who loves reading and has used cyanide in lemon bars to kill Nazis. Betty brings a casserole dish loaded with the poison-laced lemon bars to the book club and we are on edge for the rest of the play, wondering if somebody who doesn't know what they are will eat one. Tasty!
Jim Johnson, a Pear regular, is on hand as Bob, who joins the book club without knowing about the killing Nazis part of its bylaws. He doesn't read the books; he watches their movies, which is a modest ongoing joke.
Michael Weiland plays Bob's son, Sheriff Horowitz, who wonders where some of the dead Nazis have gone. Maria Costello is Tina, a Nazi functionary who tells the book club they have "1984" all wrong.
Director John Morrison is Buck, a particularly obnoxious and misogynistic Nazi who threatens the existence of the book club.
There are lots of belly laughs in this show, but it's better to experience them in the theater than to have them given away here.
A modest tickle came for me when Crowley, as Ruth, seems to be having a hard time with Diana's yoga lessons. A tickle because I happen to know that Crowley, when not on stage, teaches yoga.
Scenic design (a library, full of shelves, tables and books) by Kopp was excellent. Lighting, also by Kopp, was a problem, with missed cues; it will likely get better.
On opening night, the play still felt a bit rough, which is fair, after only one preview. Kopp is probably still polishing, and the cast hadn't quite hit that moment of organic oneness that comes with performance. But it was very good despite its newness, and is definitely recommended.
What: "Girls Kill Nazis."
Where: Pear Theatre, 1110 La Avenida St., Mountain View.
When: Through Dec. 2.
Info: Go to thepear.org/.
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