Joshua Levitt of The Algemeiner, Managing Editor

joshua-levittIn an electrifying theatrical performance, ‘When Yellow Were the Stars on Earth‘ tells the interlocking stories of a band of Jewish resistance fighters led by a woman in 1943 Berlin, the Nazi SS Captain hunting them down, and his lover, a feisty cabaret singer who lives upstairs from their hideout, and is forced to choose sides.

The play, written and directed by Robert Williams, is framed by the testimonies of Anne and Eva, the now-grown daughters of Miriam, the soulful Jewish resistance fighter, and Klara, the fiery redheaded singer, who present the drama as if they’d pieced it together from historical documents they discovered linking their mothers during the war.

The action is presented with a very cinematic flair, with short scenes, cliff hangers and tension that builds as it reaches a climax, where the resistance fighters, who have information that could save hundreds of Jews, will inevitably have to face the Nazis, who are closing in as time runs out.

What makes this story different from other dramatizations about the Holocaust is that, only in New York City, it seems, could a, descendant of captain in Mussolini’s fascist army, write and direct an emotionally riveting play that ties together these three different narratives. Williams shows the humanity not only in the band of Jewish resistance fighters, a story often retold, but also the pressure faced by the Nazi commanders, as the war turned against them, and, most importantly, profiles the Germans who stood up as righteous gentiles after recognizing the enormity of the Nazi war machine that was slaughtering the Jewish people en masse.

Fittingly, in one of its most gut-wrenching scenes, Wolfgang, the cabaret singer’s brother, a German soldier, who returns home wounded, physically and psychologically, from the Russian front where he admits to his sister that he lost his humanity and felt the death of his soul when forced by his commanding officers to lead the Jews from a village to dig one of the infamous Nazi trenches before lining up for their own deaths by firing squad. The pathos is even deeper – and it’s worth revealing the scene because it was just so powerful – as Wolfgang tells of his childhood friend in the same battalion who cocks his rifle to kill the Jewish children on the trench in front of him, but refuses the order, and he, himself, is shot dead in the temple by his own commander.

In a cast interview with The Algemeiner, Williams said the prologue by the daughters of Miriam and Klara was added, as well as another pivotal scene – also worth revealing – that showed the Jewish resistance fighters, played very believably by non-Jews Luke Bond , Matt McAllister, and Ian Potter, debating the philosophical argument behind their actions, which resonated as true then as it did 70 years later. And not to give the impression that the play is another drawn-out philosophical dialectic, William was successful in also wanting to show the action involved with actually being a resistance fighter, featuring them smuggling guns to prepare for their battle and a real Hollywood-style confrontation that – without revealing what happens – convinced the playwright to begin work on the screenplay adaptation of the story.

The real pathos in the play comes from the scenes where Hilary Walker, who plays Miriam, the leader of the resistance, interacts with her real-life friend, the German actress Gudron Buhler, who plays Klara, the cabaret singer. From the start, Klara’s questioning of Gunter, her SS Captain lover, about rumors she’s heard of Jews being killed for being Jewish, sets the scene for her to play her role as the righteous gentile, but in speaking with Buhler after the performance about her own feelings as the real-life German in the play, indeed, as much as Jews are taught to never forget, the Germans of this third generation since the Holocaust have been taught the same. In her view, the only rationale for the law-abiding German people to have gone along with the final solution during the war is summed up in only one word, “madness.”

Of the other featured players, Ron Nunni playing Gunter, Kazi Tauginas has the Nazi heel-toe march down pat, and shows the Nazi training, never looking his commanding officer in the eye.

The play also received the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval” from Elizabeth Bettina, a very knowledgeable member of the audience in last Sunday’s matinee, who wrote the book ‘It Happened in Italy,’ about the righteous gentiles there who also risked their lives to save the Jews living in their midst.

A Roman Catholic who grew up in Jericho, New York, where she considered herself “Jewish by association,” Bettina told The Algemeiner, “The Talmud says if you save a life, you save the world. Since writing the book, what has amazed me most was meeting the grandchildren of the children of the Jews who survived in Italy, and connecting them back to the righteous ones there who had saved them – we actually flew over to meet them. There’s a lesson here about the ‘goodness’ of people who stand up to save even one life, that one life can beget so many more, and I think this play tells that story very powerfully.”

Joshua Levitt

The Algemeiner

Managing Editor

Cora Schwartz

cora schwartzAfter living with a Holocaust survivor for twenty-five years, authoring books about his life, and traveling annually from New York to Mogelov to bring humanitarian aid to the survivors still living there today, one would think I was immune to the horror of it all. That myth was dispelled on Sunday afternoon when I sat in the audience of the never-to-be forgotten play, WHEN YELLOW WERE THE STARS ON EARTH. How did Robert Williams, who wrote, directed in this  superb artistic skill and intensity ? How did he bring such emotion to a person like me who has ‘seen and heard’ it all? Had my late husband, Rudy been there next to me, he would have bent over and whispered, once again, “You see, that guy’s got passion!” And so he does. I will pray that Mr. Williams will fulfill his dream and succeed with writing his film adaptation of this play. On Sunday morning I invited a friend to come with me. He is an older gentleman, and Jewish at that. He refused my invitation. He said, “enough already with the Holocaust!” I say, it is never enough and Mr. Williams is here to prove it.

 

Cora Schwartz author of:
~ Gypsy Tears, Loving a Holocaust Survivor
~ The Forgotten Few
~ I Remember Rudy

www.coraschwartz.com

Adam Rothenberg, NY Theater Critic

adam-rothenberg-new-theater-adams-appleThere have been several shows written about the Holocaust, but  I saw one of the most riveting new plays I have seen in a while—When Yellow Were the Stars on Earth, written and directed by Robert Williams When Yellow Were the Stars on Earth tells the story of a German cabaret singer and Jewish Resistance fighter who cross paths in the most unexpected way in Berlin 1943, with both women making the ultimate sacrifice for one another.

Robert has written a powerful and emotional play that includes a topic that has not been dealt with in theatre before: the considerable number of Germans who died opposing the horrors of the Nazi machine. Helping to bring this show to life is a terrific cast . The cast as a whole performed great together, each character necessary to tell this story.

There were so many intense moments in this show that I couldn’t wait for the next scene.

While some might think, “Why do I need to see another show about the Holocaust?” my answer is simply because it’s a topic that still needs to be talked about and because you haven’t seen Robert Williams When Yellow Were the Stars on Earth, which gives a different viewpoint about the brave heroes who risked their life to save the Jews.

Adam Rothenberg, NY Theater Critic

A Better World – Radio TV Media

mitchell-rabin-bw-200x300[1]When my friend and colleague, David Katzmire, who has been on A Better World Radio & TV numerous times, told me about this theater piece that his friend Robert Williams directed, I did go to West 42nd St. to see it. And I’m glad I did. Painful as it was, it was a very interesting, personal portrayal of a slice of life during Nazi Germany, of personal relationships, including one with an SS officer. Very skillfully written, directed and acted, I felt that this piece should have a much larger audience. The director, Robert Williams, appeared as a guest on A Better World Radio when we were on Progressive Radio Network, and in short, A Better World wanted to support this powerful theatrical experience.

 

We saw it last night. No words. So powerful and hits you where you live and breathe. You’ll remember how God-awful the Holocaust was and the beauty, even there, between humans looking out for one another, their lives at risk. Oh yes, do go see this play, and help to support off Broadway theater.

Mitchell Rabin – Founder of A Better World

Jeff Solis – Producer and managing director at Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre

jeffrey-solis

A taut, well acted little gem of a play by Robert Williams . Get up to see it by all means. It is powerful, suspenseful theatre that also deeply touches the heart. It deals with the underground Jewish Resistance in Nazi held  1940’s Europe and the gradual awakenings to the Nazi atrocities unfolding around her by a celebrated German cabaret singer.

Go and be surprised. This run will certainly not be the end for this play but part of the evening’s excitement is being a witness to development process of this well crafted new work. “Stars” will shine bright as standout in your 2016 theatergoing experience and in your memory.


~ Jeff Solis -Producer and managing director at Broadway’s Vineyard Theatre

David Lotz – Communications Director and Publicity/Marketing Consultant

david-lotz“When Yellow Were The Stars On Earth,” written and directed by Robert Williams . This compelling fictional drama, set in the waning months of Hitler’s Third Reich, explores an overlooked aspect of the horrendous Holocaust – the interactions between a female Jewish resistance fighter and a sympathetic German cabaret singer who stand up against Nazi brutality and make the ultimate sacrifice to fight fascism.
 
We first learn about our heroines through their daughters, who begin searching for their intertwined family histories through German SS archives. The action quickly shifts to Berlin in 1943, where we meet a cabaret singer (“Klara,” beautifully portrayed by Gudrun Buhler), who is having an affair with the head of the local Gestapo. Although Klara is disgusted by the crude and drunken behavior of the Nazis in her nightclub, she is strongly attracted to the handsome, virile Commandant Gunter (authentically acted by Rom Runni, who is hiding his affair from his fellow officers. Klara learns about the Nazi’s atrocities from her brother  a wounded foot soldier who returns from the Russian front. This confirms her feelings about the Nazis and sets up an emotional confrontation with her SS lover in the coming scenes.

Dr. Judy Kuriansky, United Nations NGO representative, journalist

Dr-Judy-KurianskyRiveted. Moved to deep spiritual and emotional places.  Touched to my soul.  That’s how I felt seeing the play When Yellow Were the Stars on Earth. 

     I was also filled with appreciation and admiration for the brilliant writer and director Robert Williams and all the talented actors for their courage in bringing this story to light.
          It’s a story about a cell of courageous Jewish resistance fighters standing up to the Nazis who are trying to maintain their last breath of evil control when facing losing the war. But the metaphors and messages from the play go way beyond, to places each audience member can relate to in their own life.
 
     It’s a story filled with the classic themes of good against evil in the backdrop of a newer theme of two exceptionally strong women protagonists, bonding and going beyond what others might out of honor and love.
     Every moment of the story is compelling.  Every actor is spectacular, convincing and professional as we are drawn into that world, that time and those people.
     Make sure to see this play and bring people you love with you and process what it means to you. Could any one of us have that courage seen on stage?  Could any one of us commit to that level of devotion and love shown in the play?
 
     I stood to my feet clapping at the end in gratitude for the gift by this group putting on this play.
 
~ Dr Judy Kuriansky, United Nations NGO representative, journalist

Paul Sladkus
, Founder of Good News Planet & Good News Corporation, Former CBS & PBS Executive

paul-sladkus-good-news-broadcastI want to film the show just as it is and stream it on my website.

Paul Sladkus
, Founder of Good News Planet & Good News Corporation
Former CBS & PBS Executive
Founder of Milestone Broadcast Corporation (MBC)


GoodNewsPlanet.com

Ronni Kolotkin Writer

yellow-stars-logo-150pxThe play was totally amazing, a very emotional experience. I was riveted, glued to my seat and totally engrossed. Everyone in the cast played their parts excellently! When Yellow Were the Stars on Earth is better than most plays I’ve seen on Broadway, and I’ve seen and slept through many!

Ronni Kolotkin, Writer