Nancy Sasso Janis
OnStage Connecticut Critic
There were no butterflies at Terezin, of course, but for the children, butterflies became a symbol of defiance, making it possible for them to live on and play happily while waiting to be transported.
Naugatuck, CT - This weekend Naugatuck Teen Theatre presents ‘I Never Saw Another Butterfly, a one-act play by Celeste Raspanti. The piece is a penetrating glimpse at a small group of Jewish children at Terezin, a stopping off place for hundreds of thousands on their way to the gas chambers of Auschwitz.
The program explains that over 15,000 Jewish children passed through the former military garrison set up as a ghetto and only about a hundred were still alive when Terezin was liberated at the end of the war. Poems and drawing done by the children were collected and published in a book of the same name. This play is an imaginative creation of the story of one of the survivors, Raja Englanderova, from documentary material: poems, diaries, letters, journals, drawing and pictures.
Lots of heavy stuff is packed into the hour-long piece and it can as difficult to take as reading the beautiful The Diary of Anne Frank. I found it to be an important piece of theatre and congratulate NTT on choosing such a challenging work for their spring play. Christy Jerome DeLong directed the teens with a keen eye and focused on the concept of Home in her direction.Daniel Wagoner served as stage manager, helped with lighting and sound design, and enhanced the effective multilevel set. Robert Rosa is the Chairman of NTT.
In the lead role of Raja, Naugatuck High School senior Kayla Kusy gave a spectacular performance. The audience hung on her every word as she told the story of the only survivor. Another great performance was delivered by Woodland HS junior Lindsey Rosa in the role of teacher Irena Synkova; this young lady played a woman older than the teens so convincingly.
In the roles of Raja’s family, NHS senior Jacob Boudreau (her father,) NHS freshman Jessica Sember (her mother,) Ashley Velleco (her aunt,) and NHS freshman Quentin LaBrecque (her brother Pavel) all did very well.CHMS eighth grader Anna Conforti played Erika (a neighbor) and Woodland junior Laura Vitzoski was Pavel’s fiancee. Senior Alex Tenbrink was Honza, a friend of Raja at Terezin. Renka, the teacher’s assistant was played by NHS freshman Sydney Lauer and Miette Deschenes was a singing rabbi.
The children of Terezin were played by Billy Brown, Eve DiAngelis, Megan Jennings, Vlada Kerus, Piper Lord, Jacob Marks, Kayleigh Pollock, Emily Wilcox and Hanna Zeliantsova.
Aurora Montenero worked her magic with the period costumes and fine music arrangements were made by Jonantonio Rodriguez.
Remaining performances are Saturday at 8pm and Sunday at 2pm at St. Michael’s Church parish hall on Church Street in Naugatuck.
Photos by Robert Rosa