‘Watch on the Rhine’ to lead off Church Hill’s 2019 sea­son

Record Observer - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT -

CHURCH HILL — Mary James will di­rect Church Hill The­atre’s first 2019 show, Lil­lian Hell­man’s “Watch on the Rhine.”

Life mag­a­zine called it a “most elo­quent” anti-nazi state­ment and au­di­ences re­sponded fa­vor­ably to the 1941 play and the 1943 film ver­sion star­ring Bette Davis.

Seventy-five years later, the play is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing re­newed ap­pre­ci­a­tion for its grip­ping plot and sup­port for demo­cratic val­ues, a news re­lease states.

“Watch on the Rhine” takes place near Wash­ing­ton, D.C., just be­fore the out­break of World War II, at the wealthy Farrelly home. Ten­sions arise when Fanny Farrelly’s vis­it­ing daugh­ter and her Ger­man anti-fas­cist hus­band in­ter­act with a ti­tled Ro­ma­nian houseguest.

“Watch on the Rhine” re­ceived the 1941 New York Drama Crit­ics’ Cir­cle award for the best play and was widely praised for its anti­nazi theme.

Mary James, with sub­stan­tial ex­pe­ri­ence at St. Martin’s Com­mu­nity The­atre and the Colo­nial Play­ers, has cho­sen a cast of ex­pe­ri­enced Church Hill The­atre ac­tors and a few new­com­ers for the CHT pro­duc­tion.

Jane Cop­ple takes on the role of Fanny Farrelly, a wealthy and well-con­nected Wash­ing­ton, DC ma­tron who is per­haps too used to get­ting her own way. Fanny’s daugh­ter, Sara Mueller, por­trayed by Dar­lene Greer, has re­turned with her Ger­man hus­band and chil­dren, vis­it­ing for the first time in 20 years.

Robert Mcgrory plays Kurt Mueller, a for­mer en­gi­neer and anti-nazi ac­tivist. Their chil­dren, Joshua, Ba­bette and Bodo, are por­trayed by Lisa Wo­je­howski, Calla Mc­cluskey and Con­nor Christo­pher.

Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters are Fanny’s house­guests, the sin­is­terly at­trac­tive Count Teck de Bran­co­vis, played by Will Robin­son, and his Amer­i­can­born wife Marthe, played by Genevieve Cro­ker.

Howard Mes­sick por­trays Fanny’s lawyer son David, a man whose com­fort­able world is rapidly chang­ing. Sheila Aus­trian plays Fanny’s French house­keeper/com­pan­ion Anise and Jim John­son plays the Farrelly’s but­ler Joseph.

“Watch on the Rhine” will open on Jan. 18 and run un­til Feb. 3. Per­for­mances are at 8 p.m. Fri­days and Satur­days and at 2 p.m. Sun­days. Reser­va­tions can be made on­line at church­hillthe­atre.org or by call­ing 410-556-6003.

CON­TRIB­UTED PHOTO PHOTO BY DOUG BISHOP

“Watch on the Rhine,” opens Jan. 18 at Church Hill The­atre. Cast mem­bers, from left, are, stand­ing, Robert Mcgrory, Dar­lene Greer and Will Robin­son; seated, Howard Mes­sick, Lisa Wo­je­howski and Jane Cop­ple.

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