Hitler’s Tasters Review – Always Looking for Volunteers

Caitlin Zambito, Olivia Gill, and Paige Simunovich in HITLER'S TASTERS - Photo by Jeff Lorch
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Based on true events, HITLER’S TASTERS made its world and New York premieres in 2018, followed by performances in several major U.S. cities and the Edinburgh Festival in 2019. The dark comedy made its Los Angeles debut in 2020 – but was shut down after only two performances due to COVID. In its short life, HITLER’S TASTERS won the 2017 Women’s Playwrights Series, Susan Glaspell Award, the Best of the Fringe in 2019, and the New York Critics Pick in 2022.

Caitlin Zambito, Olivia Gill, and Paige Simunovich – Photo by Jeff Lorch

Playwright Michelle Kholos Brooks relates some serious thoughts about her play: “The girls in HITLER’S TASTERS are the girls whose families didn’t resist the tide of tyranny. They didn’t catch the signs, or, worse, they accepted the ‘inevitable’ and looked the other way when the ‘others’ lost their homes, their businesses, and their lives…Hitler was willing to sacrifice young, German women; the future of the Reich, the potential bearer of German sons, to taste his food for poison…HITLER’S TASTERS feels more relevant today than when I conceived of it a few years ago. I wish it wasn’t…the young women of HITLER’S TASTERS are powerful reminders of what can happen when a society indulges in complacency and fails to notice that what affects some of us, eventually affects all of us.”

Paige Simunovich, Caitlin Zambito, and Olivia Gill – Photo by Jeff Lorch

This fictional account of a real event tells the tale of German teenagers conscripted to taste Hitler’s food three times a day, seven days a week – each meal followed by an hour waiting for poison to strike. Inspired by a 2014 interview with 94-year-old Margot Wolk, who revealed that she was among 15 young women selected for this “honor” at Hitler’s Wolf’s Lair, author Brooks weaves a story about four young women who were probably a lot like kids their age everywhere – even today – and how they cope with wondering if today will be their last. Yet these are vivacious youngsters with many very contemporary adolescent concerns – sexuality, boyfriends, makeup, stylish clothing – and trying to get the very best shot of a personal selfie. These were living, breathing girls full of life, dreams, and desires stuck in a room together waiting to see whether they would live or die.

Olivia Gill, Caitlin Zambito, and Paige Simunovich – Photo by Jeff Lorch

Skillfully helmed by Sarah Norris, HITLER’S TASTERS, boasts a strong all-female cast. How will Anna (Ali Axelrad), Hilda (Olivia Gill), Liesel (Paige Simunovich), and Margot (Caitlin Zambito) navigate their strange and terrifying world? For the most part, with humor and giggles – until they cannot. Their non-stop energy makes their fate all the more terrifying. Joe McClean’s and Dane Bowman’s scenic and lighting design is simple and stark; Ashleigh Poteat’s costumes are suitably grim; Chris Moscatiello’s sound is clear; and Myrna Gawryn’s choreography is moving.

Ali Axelrad, Olivia Gill, and Paige Simunovich – Photo by Jeff Lorch

HITLER’S TASTERS is a fascinating and eerie peek at a little-known page of history. It will certainly appeal to audiences interested in the internal life of young people who have been sentenced to possible death – and the coping strategies which they develop along the way. Both as a historic piece and as a strangely contemporary interpretation, HITLER’S TASTERS is intriguing theater.

HITLER’S TASTERS runs through June 3, 2024, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Mondays, at 5 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 7 p.m. on Sundays. He Rogue Machine performs at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046. Tickets are $45 (students $25, seniors $35, Show4Less May 3 $10+, May 10 $15+, May 17 and 24 $20+). For information and reservations, call 855-585-5185 or go online.


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