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Bent: ?the gay anne frank?

by admin November 10, 2009

On the surface, Bent (European slang for homosexual) is a gay love story set in a Nazi concentration camp. But to watch director Carolyn Fe’s version of Martin Sherman’s 1979 play is to discover acceptance, and to uncover an oft-forgotten page of history.
This Altera Vitae production stars Max (Christopher Moore), a high-flying, openly gay man in Hitler’s Berlin. Living out in the open, but cut off from his ashamed family, he wheels and deals to survive. But after one wild night gone wrong, Max and his lover, Rudy (Adam Leblanc) are arrested and sent to Dachau, a concentration camp.

Max pulls an about-face by cutting a deal and committing a horrific act in order to be classified as a Jew and not a gay man. He believes that being assigned a yellow star rather than a pink triangle will help him survive the camp. But when Max meets Horst (Concordia alumnus Vance de Waele), a pink triangle prisoner, a relationship blooms in the desolation of Dachau, and Max learns to accept his sexuality.

This archetype Holocaust story relies on fear and heinous villains committing grievous crimes.
In Bent, the focus isn’t nearly so much on the anonymous, horrible Nazi officer (Yves Jacquier, a musician outfitted in his first theatrical role in an authentic Nazi uniform), it’s on the love between Max and Horst. The viewer might find this a fresh take on the traditional tale, or slightly sappy. In any case, be ready for an original, but triumphant sex scene. Max and Horst are not supposed to look at each other, but Moore and de Waele manage to make their love believable.

Sherman’s words are still sharp; his script provides suprisingly bright moments of humour that alleviate the grimness of the play. For example, when Max says, “the Olympics are coming to Berlin soon.” Horst replies, “I knew there was a reason I didn’t want to be here.”

The play was sometimes overwhelming, said de Waele, who is gay in real life, “It hit me a bit hard.” He says Bent has been called “the gay Anne Frank’ because of its empowering message. The pink triangle that the prisoners wear is a metaphor for Max’s realization: Meant to shame and ostracize homosexuals, it has since taken on a positive meaning as the gay community has subverted it to symbolize pride.
“It’s time to bring minority up front,” said Fe of her and Altera Vitae’s mission to bring stories of minority to audiences. Bent makes good on this modus operandi, since this version, as well as the original, makes audiences aware of the plight of homosexuals in Nazi Germany.

For all of its productions, Altera Vitae supports a community group that is doing work echoed in the play’s theme. This time, GRIS Montréal will benefit. It’s a group that educates high school students on homosexuality in order to “demystify’ it.
Another great reason to go see a play that reminds people it wasn’t just Jews, gypsies, and political prisoners suffering in the camps.

Bent is at Espace 4001 Berri, until Nov. 15 at 8 p.m. $20, $18 for students. www.alteravitae.com

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