Once Upon a Time in Nazi Occupied Tunisia

L.A. Theatre Works. Dec. 2022. 1:30 hrs. ISBN 9781682661710. $20. DRAMA
Azouz’s (Victoria’s Knickers) play about the disintegration of a friendship between two couples—one Jewish, one Muslim—springs to life in this full-cast audio production. Opening music and sound effects set the action near a beach, shrewdly ratcheting up tension for the story to come. Actor Patrick Heusinger carefully balances the desperation that Jewish prisoner Victor feels when buried up to his neck in sand in a Nazi labor camp with the shame he feels after divulging his wife Loys’s whereabouts and the realization that Loys has not been faithful. Tara Lynne Barr embodies the fiery, unsatisfied Loys, who is having a secret affair with their friend Youssef. Pej Vahat shines as Youssef, the Tunisian guard caught between passion for his friend’s wife and loyalty to his own. Laila Ayad holds her own as his bitter, betrayed wife Faisa. In stark contrast, Simon Templeman embodies the vileness of a Nazi officer at the labor camp as he taunts the two men and turns on the charm as he tries to seduce Loys. The actors clearly separate their characters’ inner narration from their dialogue.
VERDICT A gripping production that bears repeated listening.
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