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a Drama
by Martin Sherman

COMPANY : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Actor's Express [WEBSITE]
ID# 917

SHOWING : June 24, 2004 - August 14, 2004



A provocative and heartful lament about the persecution of homosexuals during the Holocaust.

Berlin. 1934. Gay men's bodies are being dumped in mass graves as Max Berber is caught in the middle of Hitler's quest for Aryan perfection. This aching and soulful love story chronicles the perseverance of the human spirit in the most degrading hell mankind has ever created.

Bent is defiance. Bent is love. Bent is a joyous testament to the power and determination of the human soul.

Bent premiered at the Royal Court Theatre, London in 1979. Actor's Express is proud to honor the 25th anniversary of this powerful and defining landmark play, which has been seen in over 40 countries and translated into over 21 languages.

"Martin Sherman's Bent . . . is relevant to events and facts today of life throughout the world where gay people are often put at a disadvantage by the laws of whatever country they happen to live in. Although things are improving, I think it's because of this story that Martin Sherman has told so strongly presenting the case for human understanding and what it is to be gay." -- Sir Ian McKellen

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"Bent" Outa Shape
by green2u
Thursday, July 22, 2004
25 years later, Martin Sherman's play has the same glaring problems: a playwriting 101 first act and a better written second act. AE's production doesn't help overcome it either. While it has some moving moments (thanks mainly to Mitchell Anderson), overall it's a frustrating affair.

Frankly, I am surprised that out of the open casting call AE had last February for this production, the audience ends up enduring some lackluster performances. Surely the Atlanta acting pool is much better than this! And we get our third performance out of Daniel May this AE season. While I had high hopes for him as an actor after seeing him for the first time in Blue/Orange, his subsequent performances in Burn This and now Bent--has shown me he definitely has a theatrical bag of tricks. I won't say he runs the acting gamut from A to B, but he certainly doesn't run it from A to Z either.

Thrust staging is a problem in the play. A prime example is a wonderful, emotionally wrenching final gesture Mitchell Anderson's character makes that is only seen by the audience sitting front and center(a friend was sitting on the side and never saw it--and this gesture is so key to the relationship of the two leads). Also in the second act the audience witnesses the back and forth movement of bricks by the two leads. Clearly these bricks came from Home Depot; it reminded me I need to re-do my patio. How difficult was it to find quarry rocks instead of neat bricks? Oh and the laughably bad electric fence mosquito "zap" sound at the end. No sound would've been appropriate over this. What were they thinking?

All I can say is THANK GOD for Mitchell Anderson. He looked wonderfully wretched and wan, he infused humor and pathos into his character that moved me. And all was not lost for me: The production DID give me a good suggestion for the kind of bricks to use on my patio. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Rebuttal by Dedalus
One of the greatest things about live theatre is that two people can see the same production (even the same performance) and come away with completely different reactions. In that spirit, I'd like to offer a few rebuttals to green2u's notes.

(1) I'm a little puzzled by the "Playwrighting 101" criticism. I've always found Act I of this piece better-written than Act II -- expectations are always undercut, characterization is clear and non-stereotyped (though the performance we got from "Uncle Freddy" may make that seem to be generous), and the dialog didn't "grate" or feel false. In contrast, I've always thought Act II to be a static, predictable affair. I thought it was a credit to this production that, in this case, it didn't "seem" so.

(2) To be fair, reactions to performances can be all over the map, and, also to be fair, I know and like Mr. May, so I may overlook some shortcomings. In this case, however, I found no moments lacking the required emotions, and found some moments to have unexpected depths (particularly the final moments). Were there any specific parts you found him lacking, or was your comment simply an overall impression?

(3) I had no problems with the stones. Surprising as it may seem, there were cubically-shaped building stones before Home Depot, and, considering many of the labor camps were involved in road-building, it is logical that those are the sort of stones the prisoners would have been forced to move. I was just thankful they used real stones with real weight, not paper-mache copies (though the actors may disagree with this point).

(4) I do have to agree with the staging. I did catch the last gesture, but I hated how the "song" in the second scene was staged. And I have to agree with you about Mitchell Anderson.

In any case, I'm glad for your comments -- often reviews that are counter to my own opinion help me crystalize and better express my own reactions.

Still Relevant After All These Years
by Dedalus
Wednesday, July 21, 2004
It is probably a sign of my naivete that I’m constantly surprised (and disturbed) at how firmly entrenched and rationalized attitudes and prejudices can be. Twenty-five years ago, Martin Sherman’s “Bent” opened on Broadway, brilliantly dramatizing the extremes anti-gay attitudes can and have gone. Twenty-five years! How long does it take to drive home the message that some attitudes are, well, just wrong; not only wrong, but deadly.

Forgive me if this “review” turns into a soapbox polemic, but dammit, I’m pissed! A preacher pickets a young murdered man’s funeral, with a placard that says “God Hates Fags” and is applauded. Congressman Rick Santorum gets up before congress and says that gay marriage is the greatest threat our society faces, that it would mean the end of marriage and civilization. Last week, the AJC published an op-ed piece by a regular columnist who whined about those us who “misunderstood” her when she compared the tolerance of gay marriage with the appeasement of Nazism – then she goes on to say that gays are, by definition, immoral (does she even believe there’s such a thing as a homosexual virgin?) – it’s a little like saying “Yes, I love you because my religion tells me I must, but don’t call me a bigot because I think you shouldn’t be breathing and using up DNA.”

Which brings us to “Bent.” Actor’s Express has mounted an excellent production that is gripping and funny and moving and appallingly relevant. Daniel May is excellent as Max, a survivor who is sent to a concentration camp for, well, for “associating” with a Nazi homosexual. He does what it takes to convince his captors he’s Jewish, not gay. Than he spends all of Act II moving rocks from one side of the stage with another, connecting with a gay prisoner, and coming to the realization that, even in survival, self-denial is itself madness and death.

Daniel May added to his list of excellent performances. He was well-matched by Steve Emanuelson (as Rudy), Mitchell Anderson (as Horst) and most of the rest of the ensemble. On;y the actor playing Max’s Uncle Freddie seemed to be off the mark -- he had only one scene, in which he showed us a twitchy, closeted man who keeps telling Max to not be so “showy” while displaying mannerisms that would have aroused suspicions of anyone within a mile. (Full Disclosure – I auditioned for this role, but I knew at the time I had blown it – I was ill-prepared and made at least a dozen wrong choices). Freddie had spent a lifetime “in the closet,” and it strikes me that he should have been, well, better at it.

The staging worked well (with the exception of staging an early song above and behind the audience – from my position, the actor was completely unseen). The second act was especially effective. The actors moved at least 20 rocks from one side to the other – it became hypnotic and suspenseful, and I began to feel for the actors, but NOT to the extent that lost my empathy for the characters. The last sound effect could have been a bit longer – it ended suddenly before I could register what it was at a “gut level,” making the ending losing a little (just a little) impact.

But, it’s a credit to this particular production that, with a twenty-five-year-old play, they were able to make me angry about some of our current self-righteous politicians and columnists.

-- Brad Rudy (
Thanks Brad by green2u
I always respect your opinions and how you thoughtfuly remain a gentleman in your rebuttals. Thanks.


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