The production of Amsterdam had numerous problems and some redeeming qualities.
Overall, the show has a strange place at the School of Dramatic Arts as it is not so much theatre
as performance art. As such, it is easy to wonder about the educational value of doing such
plays at an educational institution. Aside from this, the play starts on a strange note when the
voice over the loudspeaker that asks the audience to turn off cellphones also tells them ‘not to
focus on the narrative’ and instead ‘allow for a sensory experience’. The obvious problem with
this is that effectively, the director has communicated the show has a weak or flawed narrative.
This is not strictly false, but it undermines any ground the play has to stand on before a word
has even been spoken.
While there are certainly a number of problems with the narrative structure of the
show, Amsterdam did have some things going for it. The amount of spectacle onstage at
moments certainly stood out. The show was certainly engaging, although perhaps not always in
the ways a director would want. Design-wise, the show utilized projections of actors via phone
cameras in real-time, which was an interesting touch, but thematically did not offer much.
Additionally, the actors at times seemed to be fiddling with pieces of design such as tape with
no eventual payoff. This was perhaps one of the bigger issues with the show; long-running
actions on stage had no actual meaning for the audience.
Audience perception is where the show ultimately fell short. Arguments can be made
about the story being fundamentally weak or the merits of a format of performance art, but the
message of the show was not translated well to the audience. Discussion as to an actual
message found it either confusing or upsetting. Largely, the message translated to the audience
was one diminutive to the experience of the Jewish people in and after the holocaust.
Additionally, the script attempts to engage in the controversy surrounding Israel, but falls short
of making any actual argument or statement. In the current political climate, an attempt to be
apolitical will only contribute to supporting the current hegemony, which is problematic
considering the violent nature of the IDF. In a show meant to critique racism and prejudice, it is
difficult to maintain the position while simultaneously engaging and supporting the IDF.
Although the spectacle was interesting and certain moments of the show worked, the overall
message was confused and obscured by certain directing choices. It does, however, beg
questions about performance art and its place in educational institutions.