Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Mother Night starts out with Howard C. Campbell (Chris Morrell) sitting at the typewriter in an Israeli prison cell writing his memoirs, which we see play out on stage in flashback. Campbell is an American writer living in Germany when the Nazis come to power. He is recruited by United States military intelligence to be a spy when the war begins. As a respected playwright married to popular German actress named Helga Noth (Megan Biggs), Campbell easily ingratiates himself with the Nazi organization, who offer him service as an anti-Semite. His Jew-baiting tirades are broadcast on the radio, bringing encouragement and joy from the Nazis and coded messages to Allied agents. He states "I, Howard W. Campbell, Jr. am an American by birth, a Nazi by reputation, and a nationless person by inclination" on the radio.
After the war, Campbell goes to New York where is joins the Iron Guard, a group of crazy and pitiful American Nazis. He is a hero to the group. The American government does not confirm or deny that Campbell was a spy, and in the end he gives himself over to the Israelis.
Intelligent lines sparkle throughout the drama: "I don't care if you were a spy or not ... you know why?," his Nazi father-in-law says, "Because you could never have served the enemy as well as you serve us ... I realized that almost all the ideas I hold now, that make me unashamed of anything I may have felt or done as a Nazi, come not from Hitler, not from Goebbels, not from Himmlerbut from you ... you alone kept me from concluding that Germany had gone insane"
Chris Morrell gives a superb portrayal of Howard W. Campbell Jr. The rest of the castDavid Boyll, Megan Biggs, AJ Davenport, Catz Foreman, Adam Niemann, and Dave Sikulatake multiple roles and they give outstanding performances.
Bottom Line: Mother Night exposes the art of fakery, propaganda and "alternate facts." I grew up in Ohio during those years and they are happening now in America. It is a spell- binding two and a half hours with brilliant acting by the cast.
Mother Night runs through June 24, 2017, at Custom Made Theatre Co., 533 Sutter St, San Francisco. Tickets and information are available online at www.custommade.org.