By Holli Harms

Our Class, written by Tadeusz Slobodzianek, directed by Igor Golyak, and adapted by Norman Allen, is a beautifully crafted psalm of degradation and destruction inflicted on humanity that deeply darkens the story like a heavy blanket. Despite the weight of the darkness that lies over everything, in another vein it is also a narrative of love. How love for one another can overcome, heal, and transform.

It has been carefully written with that pen of enduring love and colored with a brush of remembrance. A remembrance of ten children who were in elementary school fellows, and the lives that unfolded for each of them that encompassed monumental beauty and cavernous flaws.

Based on the true story of ten schoolmates, Our Class consists of five Jewish and five Catholic children who grew up together in a small Polish village in the early 20th century. The village’s location subjected them to a Russian invasion in 1939 and then a Nazi invasion in 1941 after the truce was broken with Russia. The Russians were difficult but the Nazis brought with them the pogroms – massacres of millions. In this small Polish town, all the Jews are corralled into a barn that is then set on fire. Classmates forced those they knew and played with as children into that barn, some with newly born babies, and murdered them in the name of nationalism and self-preservation, wiping off the face of the earth those they once called friend and classmate.

It is a tale magnificently and theatrically told. The stage at BAM is transformed into a classroom, a classroom of life. Here the students and their teacher, Abram (gorgeously played by Richard Topol), tell their truths, interact and play their childhood games, and grow into young adults. The stage itself goes through many transformations, becoming a wedding reception where we will celebrate the wedding of two fellow students, one a catholic, Wladek (Ilia Volok), and his now wife, newly converted from Judaism, Marianna (Alexandra Silber). Marianna is her chosen Catholic name. The stage magically and creatively transforms again and again with little more than chairs and tables, lighting shifts, and a few props.

The show is three hours long, with intermission, but never are you aware of the ticking of the clock, as Mr. Golyak’s direction has all transfixed again and again as the story plays out before us. The staging is in constant movement. The stories weave together with the impossibleness of these characters’  lives.

The main feature of the set is an enormous chalkboard where the lessons of life are taught to us by Abram and where the use of film clips and live video radiate from. What I admired about the direction was the complete use of the playing space (my first time seeing the safety net that is suspended below the lighting grid used as an acting space).

This is a grand performance, an event, a reminder of what we are capable of – the worst of us and the best of us. It is a must-see. You have the opportunity to see it now as part of the Under The Radar series. I hope that this production, this particular production, this sublimely gorgeous production, directed and polished like a precious gem filled with light and love, will return and stay long enough for all to witness its opulence of humanity’s capabilities for both good and evil.

Our Class directed by Igor Golyak, written by Tadeusz Slobodzianek, and adapted by Norman Allen

With: Gus Barney, Andrey Burkovskiy, Jose Espinosa, Tess Goldwyn, Will Manning, Stephen Ochsen, Alexandra Silber, Richard Topol, Ilia Volok and Elan Zafir

Creative Team: Directed by Igor Golyak,
Written by Tadeusz Słobodzianek,
Adapted by Norman Allen
Scenic Design by Jan Pappelbaum,
Costume Design by Sasha Ageeva,
Lighting Design by Adam Silverman,
Sound Design by Ben Williams
Music, Composed by Anna Drubich,
Music Direction by Lisa Gutkin,
Projections Design by Eric Dunlap,
Chalk Drawings Design by Andreea Mincic,
Choreography by Or Schraiber,
Hair & Makeup Design by Timur Sadykov, Intimacy & Violence Design by Leana Gardella

Presented in partnership with Under the Radar; Mark Russell, Festival Director & ArKtype, Festival Producer

Performances: Tuesday – Sunday

Final performance Sunday, February 4th

RUNNING TIME 3 hours, including a 15-minute intermission
VENUE, BAM Fisher Fishman Space
TICKET INFORMATION Tickets start at $59

Our Class contains material for adult audiences and mature themes. The production includes acts of violence, sexual assault, and antisemitic language, as well as the use of theatrical smoke and haze, and simulated gunshots. Recommended for ages 16+.

This event is presented by the MART Foundation and Arlekin Players. BAM house and ticketing policies may not apply. BAM membership benefits do not apply.
All performances will adhere to protocols developed by New York State regulations and in consultation with medical professionals for the safety of our artists, audiences, and staff.