“Truth is written by the victor” this sentiment was expressed by Joseph Goebbels in a new play currently at the Illusion Theater. It seems, unfortunately, that this is often true. That is until a playwright comes along and tells a forgotten story.
Dancing with Giants, written by David Feldshuh, centers on boxing manager Joe Jacobs and his work and friendship with German boxer Max Schemeling in the years preceding World War II. The play also brings us in contact with the great American boxer Joe Lewis, and Hilter’s propaganda minter Dr. Joseph Goebbels. Out of this small cast of characters it seems like only one, Joe Jacobs, also known as “Yussel the Muscle” has been lost to history.
Joe Jacobs is brought to life on stage by Tovah Feldshuh, the playwright’s sister and a familiar face to anyone who watches “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” or “The Walking Dead”. She dances across the stage, making the character with the smallest stature on stage bigger the life. Dancing with Giants does not deal with comical subject matter but it is a very funny show. This is thanks to a fantastic script and a wonderful performance by Tovah Feldshuh.
All of the cast works well together. Sam Bardwell takes on the role of Max Schemeling, dying his blonde hair black to look the part of the German who doesn’t look very Aryan. His drive is what is the most striking and his friendship with Joe Jacobs comes across very clearly. Ricky Morisseau is Joe Lewis, Schmeling’s athletic rival and friend. He doesn’t show up until later in the play but is vital in understanding the importance of boxing for those who were in the ring. Lastly James Cunningham is Goebbels and has a chilling presence on stage.
It was mentioned after the show that this production was a family affair. Beyond David and Tovah Feldshuh, David’s children also helped with some of the compositions and projections during the show. The love put into this show did not go unnoticed. The audience on opening night clearly loved the show, and I have to agree with them.
Dancing with Giants takes place over 70 years ago, but at its center is the conflict between sports and politics. It seems that in regards to that conflict not much has changed. As athletes are public figures with public influence it seems as though that tension will be ever present, whether it is a political party trying to use an athlete for their own means or the debate about athlete’s right to protest by taking a knee. To fully understand where we are it helps to know where we come from, and in this case theater has helped to reflect on that past.
Dancing with Giants is playing at the Illusion Theater through February 24th, you can click here to find more information about the show and how to get tickets.
*Photo Credit to Lauren B Photography