Little Willy 

The Ohio Theater, 66 Wooster Street

When I first heard there was a theater production about an “estranged nephew” of Hitler I assumed it was some kind of postmodern theatrical joke. Turns out William Patrick Hitler was a real person straight out of central casting: the only son of Adolf’s older half-brother, “Willy” was born in Dublin and, a notorious playboy, bounced around Europe until he wound up in Germany to take advantage of his estranged uncle’s rise to power. Rumors of a blackmail attempt concerning Jewish lineage supposedly led to a big cash payoff for Willy and either a promise to leave Germany forever or a threat on his life that had him escaping to London, where he became severely critical of his uncle.

Mark Kassen’s imaginative multimedia production consists of a series of monologues, screen projections, and dramatic role-playing performed along with Roxanna Hope. Initially it is impossible to stay grounded — Willy has a deep Irish accent, recites a letter to President Roosevelt, and is simultaneously trying to sell someone a car in a German town. But once the mechanics become apparent Kassen’s work is eloquent performance poetry.

After Willy immigrates to America and joins the U.S. Navy to fight in WWII (and eventually become a citizen living on Long Island), one is amazed by this con-man-turned-Nazi-turned-entrepreneur-turned-American patriot. Projected text about Willy’s three sons and a purprted pact between them never to have children and hence kill off the Hitler bloodline is an amazing ending to a sensational story.

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