I had the opportunity to see a spectacular show presented by the Cardinal Stritch Theatre and Renaissance Theaterworks opening weekend. ‘Irena’s Vow’, written by Dan Gordon, is the amazing true story of the life of Irena Gut Opdyke, a survivor of the Holocaust. Irena was a young nineteen year old girl who survived this devastating time by being a housekeeper for a German Nazi Commander. The twist in her story was that during her time ‘working’ for him she was hiding twelve Jews in the basement of this Nazi. She herself was catholic, not Jewish; she was placing herself at the same risk level as the Jews that she was hiding. They all survived hiding in the basement for two years and throughout all of the obstacles they were faced with; the German occupation, hiding in the basement o f the house that held Nazi parties every night, a black mail scheme and the birth of a precious baby boy. This baby boy, named Roman, ended the show by a time jump and coming back to thank Irena for saving his life.
The Friday before I saw the show, I was able to watch her daughter speak to students at Stritch and tell Irena’s story and how it evolved into a show. She gave the details and story connects that weren’t included in the play itself. Like the experiences that she had following where the play left off; her coming to America and meeting her husband. We were told the story of how those two met and were married within the next six weeks. How the story of Irena and her daughter developed their relationship and how Irena’s daughter became such a big part of her story. I was able to hear how it was originally intended to be adapted for a movie, but was sold instead as a play.
I really enjoyed seeing the story of WWII told from the perspective of a non-Jew, who was personally wanted by both sides of the war. It was an amazing performance by the actors who were portraying victims, heroes and villains; they were to act our scenes ranging from intense emotion to extreme intimacy. The actors used the sets well and made the story believable and real. It was a real pleasure to watch this production. The show runs through November 4th; hopefully you will get a chance to see it.