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Review: ‘Hi, Hitler’ and Other Tales From a Lively Household


Trying to find herself: Lucie Pohl in “Hi, Hitler,” at the Cherry Lane Theater.

Champion Hamilton

Lucie Pohl proves to be a delightful raconteur in “Hi, Hitler,” her one-woman show at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Her story, though, ultimately is less engaging than she is, growing more amorphous as it goes along and slowing to a stop rather than reaching a peak.

Ms. Pohl, directed by Kenneth Ferrone, tells an autobiographical tale about her eccentric family and her lifelong sense of not quite fitting in. The title comes from her childhood fascination with Hitler (Ms. Pohl is in her mid-30s) and her innocent mishearing of “Heil Hitler” — she thought it was a cheery greeting, an especially unfortunate misapprehension because her household was Jewish.

It’s a funny anecdote, but the thread disappears more quickly than the titular treatment would suggest. Its real purpose is to establish the anchor points for Ms. Pohl’s life. She was born in Germany but was brought to New York as a child when her parents relocated. She returned to Germany when she was older to study acting and to work but is now back in New York.

The theme of identity runs through her series of anecdotes, many of which involve her colorful family.

“My earliest memory of my dad is of him onstage dressed as a transvestite,” she relates. With her father, Klaus Pohl, a playwright and actor, and her mother, Sanda Weigl, a singer, it was a lively household, full of theatricality and the kind of urgent debates artistic types thrive on.

“My parents would invite people over for arguments and hors d’oeuvres,” she says.

Ms. Pohl, who transforms into assorted family members and other characters to deliver the story, also mentions that she is related to Bertolt Brecht, though she doesn’t make much of the connection. The piece is, essentially, about trying to find herself and a sense of stability in an unconventional family with Jewish, German and immigrant American elements. It’s energetically told and fun to watch, but in the end it’s not especially traumatic, or unusual, which also makes it something less than revelatory.

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