To See or Not to See: Nivelli’s War
Nivelli’s War, inspired by the true story of “The Magician of the Holocaust” is an enchanting tale that transcends generations. While the play is intended for younger children, the production chooses not to simplify its messaging or execution. Its content, haunting score, illusions, and visual effects challenge theatergoers to reflect on a difficult time in world history. Playwright Charles Way and director Paul Bosco McEneaney create a poignant, thought-provoking work that reminds us to find our humanity even during the darkest of times. It’s a universal message that will resonate with any audience—regardless of their age.
Set a few years after the end of World War II, we’re introduced to present-day Ernst (Dan Gordon). He’s a world-renowned magician who goes by the stage name, “The Great Nivelli”. As he arrives for his highly-anticipated show, it’s clear by his appearance and dialogue that he’s a man who’s suffered many hardships in his life. And within moments, we’re transported back to his childhood.
It’s there that we find a young Ernst (Jack Archer). He and his mother (Emma Deegan) are caught in the mist of the war. They struggling with its realities, which include rationing their food and frequent trips to the bomb shelter. As the situation gets worse, Ernst’s mother sends him away to live with Tante Sophie (Maggie Cronin). But she’s dealing with her own battles and eventually flees; leaving Ernst to fend for himself. Hungry and scared, Ernst meets Mister H (Bob Kelly), a mysterious man who reluctantly promises to help the young boy find his way home. The pair set off on an unexpecting journey and we soon discover who Mister H really is.
Nivelli’s War is a magical theater experience with a heartfelt lesson at its core.
★ ★ ★ ½ out of 4
Photo Credit: Steffan Hill