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|The Tolucan Times -- January 21, 2005
"Annulla" Documents Heroic, Inspiring True Life
Based on the true story of Annulla Allen, a Polish Jew who endured the hardships of Nazi Austria during the 1930s and rescued her husband from Dachau after Kristallnacht by pretending to be Aryan, Annulla documents the life of a strong, courageous woman fighting for life and justice. It features strong acting and intense emotions.
Playwright Emily Mann and her best friend received a grant 30 years ago to record oral histories with Holocaust survivors. Her goal was to interview her maternal grandmother from Ostroleka, Poland, a difficult feat in that the older woman spoke Polish, Yiddish and English, though none of them fluently. She instead interviewed her friend's aunt living in London, Annulla Allen.
The play is Annulla's story, documenting her family's remarkable accomplishments and successes during the early part of the twentieth century and their fight for survival from the atrocities of the Nazis in the 1930s.
Eileen De Felitta vividly brings Annulla to life through intense emotion and expressiveness. Capturing Annulla's humor, warmth and playfulness, De Felitta also exudes strong self-confidence and determination to succeed whatever the cost. She thoroughly inhabits the character, whether vulnerably singing Yiddish, proudly reading from her play or promoting world peace by establishing a women's party.
Amy Benedict possesses a calming warmth and tenderness as the young narrator, a character based on Mann. She provides the steady anchor that allows De Felitta to energetically reveal Annulla's character.
Director Judy Welden draws amazing performances from her actors as well as fine work from the production staff. Jeff G. Rack's kitchen set is a hodgepodge of materials: decades old typewriter, '50s era knickknacks, graceful and sometimes clunky furniture. John Dickey's lighting shifts from Mann's straightforward telling in the present to warmth in revealing the memory of the afternoon with Annulla.