Look on the Rhine at the Donmar Warehouse review

It is set in Washington DC, where wealthy widow Fanny Farrelly (languidly caustic Patricia Hodge) awaits the arrival of her daughter Sara (Caitlin Fitzgerald) after a 20-year absence in Germany. When Sara arrives with her husband Kurt (Mark Waschke) and her three children, it is apparent that they have fled Europe due to Muller’s anti-fascist activities.

Blithely unaware of what’s happening in Germany, Fanny and her docile son David (Geoffrey Streatfeild) are comfortably combative; he is in love with guest Marthe (Carlyss Peer), the unhappy wife of the opportunistic and poor Romanian Count Teck De Brancovis (John Light), and hopes to win his affections.

Attached to the German embassy, ​​Brancovis hatches a blackmail plan that endangers the entire family, especially Muller. At times, he comes across as a twisted American version of an Agatha Christie thriller with politics thrown in.

Director Ellen McDougall resists the urge to parallel stoplights with any current political turmoil.

A simple parlor game establishes the prosperous condition of the family and the minimal use of a giant screen conveys historical information, although it could have been used to a greater extent.

As it transitions from awkward comedy-drama to something more sinister, the initial lightness of the tone pays dividends; a late sequence of shocking violence introduces the question of moral justification and leaves the family—and us—shocked and shaken.

  • Watch it on the Rhine at the Donmar Theater until February 4 Tickets: 020 3282 3808

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