“The Bakelite Masterpiece”: The voice that asks not “should I,’ but ‘can I?’

Benjamin Evett (left) and Laura Latreille (right). Photo by Andrew Brilliant/Brilliant Pictures.

Produced by New Rep Theatre
Written by Kate Cayley
Directed by Jim Petosa

March 17 – April 8, 2018
Mosesian Arts Center
Watertown, MA
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Review by Polly Goss

(Watertown, MA) Set in 1946 among the rumble of post-war Holland, The Bakelite Masterpiece immerses you in the days leading up to the trial of forger Han Van Meergeren. Awaiting trial for charges of conspiracy with the Nazis, Van Meergeren protests his innocence to the formidable Resistance Officer Geert Piller. Based on true events, this captivating moral drama gives voice to a nation struggling to rebuild itself as it emerges from the clutches of fascism.

The Bakelite Masterpiece at first appears to be a clear cut case, a fraudster and Nazi sympathizer vs. a Jewish Resistance officer, the sole survivor in her family. However this is a play that thrives in ambiguity. As the play progresses we reluctantly realize our sympathy for the depraved, but nonetheless, beguiling Van Meegeren (Benjamin Evett). Geert Piller (Laura Latreille) the obvious choice for the hero, the strong woman resolute in her pursuit of truth and justice, seems initially oddly cruel and inhuman in comparison. Evett and Latreille have excellent chemistry and entice the audience into their world of ever shifting power dynamics that leave us asking: who is really the prisoner and who the interrogator?

The highlight of the production is certainly Kate Cayley’s script. Cayley’s writing is both provocative and subtle, she allows the complex themes of postmodernism, art, gender and justice, to bubble just below the surface of the tightly crafted dialogue.

This confessional drama goes to right to the heart of the role that art has to play in the face of tyranny. Cayley deftly highlights throughout the piece that the true value of a piece of art, and by extension the play itself, lies within the audience’s perception. The New Rep Theatre Company is committed to putting on plays that challenge the audience and celebrate a spirit of resistance and The Bakelite Masterpiece is an excellent choice, I urge you to see it.

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