This play is based on a fascinating, albeit depressing, true story.
In all honesty, if I had known the topic of this dramatic one-woman play beforehand, instead of blindly attending on someone else’s recommendation, I wouldn’t have gone. But then I would have missed the absolute tour de force performance by Salome Jens. And that would’ve been quite the shame.
I’m telling you up-front what Blonde Poison is about, so you can make your own decision. (And no—it’s not about the mean girls in high school! Nor the dumb ones!) Ms. Jens portrays a real-life older Jewish woman who had survived the long-ago Holocaust by becoming an informant for the Gestapo. She’s blonde and blue-eyed, which played into her activities of that time.
The character, Stella Goldschlag, is on stage in her flat near Berlin, awaiting a journalist who is a guy she knew in her younger days. I’m never quite sure to whom she’s speaking this entire monologue, but it’s riveting nonetheless. (She’s always talking to herself, but at times it seems like she’s talking to her deceased mother, and other times I feel like she’s telling the story to us, the audience. I think it might have been better if she was outwardly talking to us, in lieu of a pal, but just try to get past that slight flaw in the writing/direction.)
Being Jewish myself (though far from having the Aryan looks that this woman did), I try to avoid all shows, films, plays, and stories about this horrible period of history. It’s just way too painful for me. But I feel that every now and then all of us need to be reminded of it, so having this play be staged right here in Beverly Hills is very important, not just to Jews, but to everyone. I wish that more young people patronized Theater 40, because that’s a generation who needs to be reminded of history.
But whether or not you are interested in this tragic true story, if you’re a fan of the theater at all, you have got to be impressed with Salome Jens’ performance. Besides that it’s wonderful, it’s amazing that anyone, let alone a woman of her age, could not only learn this difficult script, but perform it multiple times a month. There’s absolutely no downtime on-stage; she never gets to be quiet for even a second, or just do “business.” She’s speaking, usually passionately, for the entire hour and a half! I can’t tell you how much I admired everything about this performance. It was a privilege to see such an accomplished actress.
I was also impressed with Jeff G. Rack’s set. The set decorations were perfect “senior citizen” appointments, like the old-school TV, VCR, and VHS tapes. Those all looked like exactly like what were in my mother’s house! I could have furnished the props for them myself! And the beautiful classy tea set up-front let us know the background of this woman, which helped me feel exactly what she was going through. It was such a small touch to the set, but a perfect one.
Theater 40 itself is easy enough to reach, with accessible free parking right under the theatre (it’s on the grounds of Beverly Hills High School), all the sight-lines in the audience appear to be good, and the seats are shockingly comfortable enough. The one thing I have to warn you about is that it was very hot in there on opening night, and they told me the air-conditioning was on. So I would dress in layers, including a very, very thin one. (No fooling around; I had to take off just about everything I could in an attempt to cool down.)
But no matter how you dress, go see Salome Jens in Blonde Poison. And try not to judge the real-life woman because I don’t think any of us really knows what we would have done in that desperate situation. And let’s pray we never have to.