“I’m A Stranger Here Myself” at The York Theatre

Written and Created by Mark Nadler
Directed by David Schweizer
Reviewed by David Roberts
Theatre Reviews Limited

I do not care if that day arrives/That dream need never be,
If the ship I sing doesn’t also bring/My own true love to me,
If the ship I sing doesn’t also bring my own true love to me.
“My Ship” (from “Lady in the Dark”) by Kurt Weill and Ira Gershwin

Music has given humankind strength, hope, and courage to do remarkable deeds. Strangers in strange lands, people in exile, people oppressed, people torn by war, people hated simply because of their identity all sang songs which helped bind them together and often led them to freedom.

Among the most important music of this genre was and remains the music of the Weimar Republic, democratic Germany before the reign of Adolf Hitler. Mark Nadler, in his impressive “I’m A Stranger Here Myself,” has researched the music of this era and created a remarkable work of theatre which focuses on the music created by composers who found themselves strangers in their own land and targeted for extinction by a ruthless and maniacal leader. This music – this veritable ship – transported a relatively small number of Jews and homosexuals to safety in America and other locations.

“I’m A Stranger Here Myself” chronicles this important music. Mark Nadler’s vocals and piano capture the spirit of the plaintive music and lyrics of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht (“Bilbao Song”); Kurt Weill, Jazques Deval and Roger Fernay (“J’attends un navire”); Arno Billing, Kurt Schwabach and Jeremy Lawrence (“The Lavender Song”); and Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash (“I’m A Stranger Here Myself”); and others. Accompanied by violin and accordion (Jessica Tyler Wright and Franca Vercelloni), Mr. Nadler manages to counterpoint the exile of past victims of being strangers in a strange land with his own journey and the journeys of each audience member from exile to freedom. The true love of self acceptance, self-empowerment, and freedom will arrive on the many songs we sing.

One wonders how effective music can continue to be in transforming society in the way the music of the Weimar has been able to do. Far too much of humankind remains without the basic needs for survival, without freedom, without true equality, without being able to be themselves (“Be Myself,” written by Arthur Schwartz and Harold Dietz). Many in these United States are strangers here themselves: gay men and lesbians still are without equal justice under Federal Law. “Oh just suppose” the Marriage Equality Act became a reality (“Oh Just Suppose” by Frederick Hollander).