At four years old, little Lucie Pohl’s teeth are black from eating too much candy, she’s obsessed with Hitler, and she spends her nights watching her father channel Zarah Leander – while performing in full drag. Lucie doesn’t know it yet, but she’s the typical American Kid.
Don’t believe me? By eight years old little Lucie’s very artistic, very non-traditional German-Jewish family heads from Hamburg to New York City. From then on, nothing is the same for her again.
Actress, comedian & writer Lucie Pohl takes her show Hi, Hitler (directed by Jessi D. Hill) to 59E59 Theatre before making her Edinburgh Festival debut. With only one show left tomorrow afternoon, I was happy to catch this performance before it set off for the tour.
Pohl’s transition from German kid to New York City transplant is a story that can resonate with any person living here. Even if your trek started from the Midwest, chances are you arrived with the same wide-eyed shock when confronted with the unique rhythm of The Big Apple. You probably had the same “Now What?” moments and struggled to find your spot in a city where ‘finding a spot’ is a myth for some, a birthright for others – and for those brave enough to accept the challenge – a dare that determines how everything else will fall into place. Some thrive on it. Some are beaten back by it. But it all starts with that search to fit into an already over-crowded metropolis.
Perhaps the only difference between Lucie and you is your point of origin, and the fact that one of the last things Lucie did before coming to America was rock out at a David Hasselhoff concert. Those Germans sure love the Hoff.
As she describes it, Pohl’s childhood was filled with emotional souvenirs from her homeland – but whose isn’t? Lucie’s mother may not have been traditional, but she invented and reinforced the concept of The Pohl Family Circus – not an actual circus, but real-life performance art where the drama of their family was played out on the stage of their new home. At the Circus the Pohls were allowed to be as dramatic, as quirky, as unique and as peculiar as they want to be.
The melodrama of growing up with father Klaus Pohl (a heavy-drinking tortured playwright) and mother Sandra Weigl (a free spirited singer and the niece of Bertolt Brecht) is captured brilliantly in lines like “I stood in front of the mirror to watch myself cry. Because that is what you do in a theatrical family”.
As resistant as she was to the idea, nine year old Lucie fits in beautifully, as all eccentric, bizarre, unique kids fit into this city of immigrants. And while it may have taken a while for her particular brand of crazy to catch on, once it did she found for herself that eventually all those strange inclinations are what make new kids on the block sparkle, causing them to be embraced and even prized.
Pohl – whose normal voice has not a trace of any accent besides good ole All-American – has a gift for accents and intonations. Not only is she able to switch between her native German-speaking-younger-self to her English-speaking-present-self without dropping a beat, she also consummately takes on her European-accented relatives while voicing everything from an Indian cab driver to a Chinese landlord. What really stands out is the mishmash of German-with-Peurto-Rican swagger she and her German friend adopt and dub (among other things) “German-icano”.
Pohl is dramatic – and this is obvious from the first moment she bounds onto the stage. She’s a proud German, a proud Jew, a proud New Yorker and a proud performer. These facts are telegraphed boldly throughout every moment of the play. She’s an amalgam of far-flung nuances and all that chemistry can’t help but bubble up and create an enticing cocktail of humor, storytelling and tireless physical pantomime.
Her volume starts at – and stays at – 11. And while it takes a good five minutes to adjust to the speed of her roller coaster, Pohl’s performance gives you that same giddy payoff, worth every second of the ride.
Director Jessi D. Hill understands the fizzy burst of Pohl’s innate intensity. Hill guides the force, sometimes shaking up the bottle and letting Pohl’s natural energy and exuberance burst all over the stage, and sometimes slowing down Pohl’s natural inclinations in order to underline the more thoughtful, sincere moments of the play.
Pohl’s off to Edinburgh, but I’m relatively sure she’ll be back in the states soon enough performing this firecracker of a show. So if you weren’t able to catch it this time around, make sure to keep an eye out for Hi, Hitler. This is defintely a case where audiences will benefit by history repeating itself.
|Dates||Jul 10 – 13, 2014|
|Venue||59E59 59 East 59th Street
(between Madison and Park Avenue)
|Written & Performed By||Lucie Pohl|
|Directed By||Jessi D. Hill|
|Presented By||Great Pretender Productions|
Click Here for tickets