Levin and Levin
Levin and Levin are women. They’re not even related. Except in their youth they passed for boys, and not just as boys, but as brothers. It’s a premise tragically familiar to the millions of displaced, frightened children who crossed from country to country in the 20th century, sometimes as a result of war; at other times merely escaping from unreasoning and vicious hatred and persecution.
bases its show on this premise, and make from it a rather touching tribute to the dispossessed of all nations.
As two orphaned little Jewish girls in Russia in the early 20th century, their characters, Ida and Bubbie, disguise themselves as boys for safety, and even learn to pee standing up for fear of being spied upon. Scratching for survival as they trek across Europe, they begin to perform, and their male impersonator act is born.
As a smoky basement-type cabaret act, the two women are entirely convincing: their voices have the gutsy gravel in the base notes, their choreography is slick and elegant, and there is an obvious empathy that carries the characterization through. And if the rise of Levin and Levin to become the toast of Europe seems somewhat effortless, that can be forgiven, as can the twist which supposedly destroys their act as they are about to take Broadway by storm. (Think the film Victor/Victoria, although this act has more raw credibility than Julie Andrews could aspire to).
It’s this twist that deposits them back in Berlin… where else, in the 1930s?… and the audience is given a wind-down that points a moral and a warning: merely making fun of Nazis in the 1930s didn’t stop the rise of Hitler.
This is an accomplished piece of serious theatre cabaret.