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The Radicalization of Rolfe (FringeNYC)

From 12 critic and 68 member reviews
Members say: Clever, Entertaining, Great acting, Funny, Intelligent

About the show

A FringeNYC Encore: Austria, the 1930s. Messenger boy Rolfe, 17 (going on 18) is about to discover that forbidden sex and the Third Reich don't mix. This dark comedy proves that B-characters have a destiny, too. More…

It's Salzburg, Austria in the last golden days of the 1930s. Rolfe is trying to rise in the ranks of the new order. Unfortunately, he's stuck delivering messages to a certain widowed naval captain with seven children, and flirting with the eldest daughter under the watchful eye of the children's new governess from nearby Nonnberg Abbey. Rolfe quickly discovers that the conflicts between his ambition and his sexuality pose life and death consequences.

DC Metro Theater Arts

"A uniquely witty original take-off on 'The Sound of Music'...The script is clever and amusing, as it challenges the audience to recognize the well-known show tunes from which they’re taken. But the funny pop-culture references are underscored with intimate views of the devastating effects inherent in the familiar historical themes of socio-political indoctrination, intolerance, and work-camp atrocities that drive the play." Full Review

Talkin' Broadway

"Bergh has tried fervently to escape the shackles of the source, but they don't release easily...Bergh has plenty of points to make, but they have trouble landing amid all the comedic landmines...It may feel like a lot of filler. This is not because of the actors, who are competent and professional (if never exciting), or director Abigail Zealey Bess, who's staged things with the most kitchen-sink fidelity possible in this format. There's just nowhere for them to go with the material." Full Review

The New York Times

for a previous production "A play that was just as much fun as — and cleverer than — it promised to be...In Abigail Zealey Bess’s tone-perfect production, Rolfe (Logan Sutherland) is gay and closeted, unable to stay away from the sweet, teasing Johan (Alex J. Gould). The two are so lovely together that you’ll root for them, and that’s part of the point. Filled with 'Sound of Music' jokes, yet unblinking about the realities of 1930s Austria, this is a lark of a play with sadness at its core." Full Review


for a previous production “Getting comic mileage with just a few choice bits of song, lyrics and dialogue from its source, Bergh's play is otherwise soundly and commendably rooted in its serious depiction of Nazi indoctrination of youth...It only takes five chairs, one table and five fine actors to create the dispiriting ambiance of late 1930s Salzburg under the smooth direction of Abigail Zealey Bess, who moves things forward with short and snappy confrontational scenes that afford increasingly emotional content." Full Review

Stage Buddy

for a previous production “There are plenty of knowing winks to the audience here to entertain ‘Sound of Music’ fans...Though these references certainly stand out, they don’t feel out of place with the rest of the play, whose witty tone makes the show a pleasure to watch...At the same time, the production deals with some heavy subject matter, and 'Rolfe' manages to balance its wit and cheery show tune references perfectly with its weighty take on the Nazi Party’s rise...The production unsettles even as it entertains." Full Review

New York Theater

for a previous production "Not a campy spoof...I suppose there are good reasons why Bergh’s play shouldn’t work. But it did for me, in part because it’s a fascinating exercise to re-view 'The Sound of Music' from the oblique perspective of some of its minor characters…Director Bess takes the material seriously and ratchets up the tension, aided by the fine acting of its five-member cast…Above all, Logan Sutherland makes for a believable Rolfe...For all the inevitability of the ending, it is no less chilling." Full Review


for a previous production "A darkly funny new drama…An intriguing look at what might have been if the original property had gone darker. In Abigail Zealey Bess' well-honed production, there are a lot of great belly laughs…But it's not afraid to go deeper, and Sutherland beautifully plays his character's inner conflict, especially in the wrenching last scene. The Von Trapps might make it over the mountain, but Rolfe learns the hard way that Liesl isn't the only one who's totally unprepared to face a world of men." Full Review

Theatre is Easy

for a previous production "Allusions to 'Sound of Music' are acknowledged unabashedly in the writing and provide a welcome comedic edge to an inherently dark story. If a good number of references undoubtedly went over my head, the cast’s impressive ability to play to the truth of the text meant this never bothered me...Certainly 'Rolfe' will appeal to fans of 'Sound of Music;' what's perhaps even more important is that it will also appeal to those who might not count the classic musical among their favorite things." Full Review

Time Out New York

for a previous production “Broad puns, corny references to Rodgers & Hammerstein and an obscure yet relevant allusion to Marvel's Red Skull are all in the mix. But Bergh doesn’t just crank out meta jokes...The dramatic stakes help move 'The Radicalization of Rolfe' beyond mere spoof, and offer characters of some depth (feelingly acted by a strong cast)...To be sure, Bergh’s humor caters to a distinct niche—camp-loving History Channel and Broadway buffs—but the Players Theatre was alive with the sound of laughter.” Full Review

Applause! Applause!

for a previous production "The highlight of the show was the depiction of the loving relationship between Rolfe and Johan. Logan Sutherland, a talented, charismatic actor with a strong stage presence, was perfectly cast as Rolfe Gruber. Alex J. Gould's natural acting style was well-suited for his portrayal of Johan...You won't regret seeing 'The Radicalization of Rolfe.' While it needs a little touching up, you will still have a very good time at this show." Full Review

NY Theatre Guide

for a previous production “Fortunately, Bergh has some amusing tricks up his sleeve, and ‘Rolfe’, has some giggles along its protracted way, leading up to a genuinely, unexpectedly chilling fade out. It just doesn’t add up to a lot...So, is there humor in these supporting-character antics? Yes, but a lot of it is of the most obvious sort...There’s not a lot of subtext or physicality to the proceedings; about all director Abigail Zealey Bess can do is keep the pace brisk, and she manages that.” Full Review

Theater In The Now

for a previous production "'The Radicalization of Rolfe' is an interesting angle of a lesser-shared narrative utilizing a well-known story. But it completely confuses the tone...Bergh’s play gets tonally confused as the only moments people laugh are through the well-timed references to the score. If we’re supposed to find light in the situation, Bergh truly needs to go further with the humor...'Rolfe' is a brilliant concept that wasn’t as well executed as it needed to be." Full Review

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Funny, Intelligent

See it if You enjoy famous stories told from another perspective. Are familiar with "the sound of music"

Don't see it if Are upset by nazi portrayals and the dangers of homophobia under their regime.

Clever, Entertaining, Great acting, Intelligent, Original

See it if You like Sound of Music

Don't see it if You don't like Sound of Music

Great writing, Relevant, Ambitious

See it if your memories of the Sound of Music can handle a little backstory, which is scarily relevent to our political climate.

Don't see it if bad people, doing bad things for their own gain upsets you. Or you don't want anything but the good associated with the movie.

Clever, Great acting, Hilarious, Great writing, Thought-provoking

See it if you enjoy someone doing for The Sound of Music, what Wicked did for The Wizard of Oz.

Don't see it if You know nothing about The Sound of Music.

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Intelligent

See it if You need your social justice leavened with a great deal of inside Sound of Music humor.

Don't see it if Long sit down scenes of confrontation bore you.

Absorbing, Great acting, Great staging, Great writing, Thought-provoking

See it if You want to see an original exploration of the Nazi theme in the Sound of Music that is well written, acted, and directed,

Don't see it if You can't bear to see another show about Nazis.

Clever, Enlightening, Absorbing, Great acting, Must see

See it if You'd like: Another angle to the "Sound of Music." Solid acting from entire cast. A show w/good pacing & nice mix of drama w dash of comedy.

Don't see it if You won't like a coming of age story of a gay nazi, and can't bear to see two men kiss onstage.

Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Great staging

See it if You would enjoy a more complex, problematic look at the characters for The Sound of Music. Politics, sexual orientation and a bit of kitsch.

Don't see it if You don't care about people

Absorbing, Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Great acting

See it if You are a diehard fan of The Sound of Music (as I am) and would like to see a different take on some of the other characters in the story.

Don't see it if You expect to see Maria singing "My Favorite Things" although there are many references to Maria and The Captain.

Clever, Delightful, Entertaining, Funny, Enchanting

See it if you want to see one of the best Fringe plays this summer. A funny yet thoughtful companion to "The Sound of Music" with a darker message.

Don't see it if you can't stand the frequent and funny references to "The Sound of Music".

Must see, Excellent cast/performances, Clever & insightful, Insider humor, Needs editing

See it if a fan of SOM, LGBT themes, & can appreciate the imagined back stories of minor characters

Don't see it if not familiar with the S.O.M & too much exposition makes you crazy

Also #ShowScore 10/26/16 #RadicalizationOfRolfe #FringeNYC #SohoPlayhouse S... Read more Read less

Clever, Entertaining, Funny, Great writing, Quirky

See it if You like funny plays that still manage to address serious issues. LGBT plays interest you.

Don't see it if You've never seen or don't like "The Sound of Music"

Ambitious, Clever, Intelligent, Original, Relevant

See it if you are curious about Rolf, and would like to see a well-conceived imaginary back story. Also, you get an effective gay perspective on era.

Don't see it if Nazi's tend to creep you out.

Also In 90 minutes, you get a mini-spoof of the SOM, an intriguing back sto... Read more Read less

Clever, Entertaining, Original, Great acting, Great writing

See it if You want a different and original take on the background to Sound of Music. This show is engaging, beautifully acted, and well written.

Don't see it if Not a single reason not to see this engaging and original show.

Ambitious, Great acting, Great writing, Original, Resonant

See it if Clever, well written & acted work. Intriguing 'backstory' to Sound of Music both funny & profound

Don't see it if challenging work around themes of sexual difference and xenophopia disturb

Absorbing, Clever, Great acting, Intelligent, Entertaining

See it if You'd ever (or never!) wondered about Rolfe. In depth look into a conflicted gay young man discovering himself and his place in the world.

Don't see it if You take issue with humanizing Nazis, playing around with The Sound of Music, or a gay backbone to a story. Some v strong performance-& fun~

Clever, Absorbing, Intelligent

See it if You like clever twists on traditional material like The Sound of Music.

Don't see it if You don't like gay themed material.

Clever, Entertaining, Intelligent

See it if you love "The Sound of Music," like "campy" humor, enjoy plays that mix comedy and tragedy and like seeing new plays.

Don't see it if you'll freak out over gay love scenes; dislike shows that are a spin off of others; aren't familiar with "The Sound of Music."

Clever, Funny, Provocative, Thought-provoking, Entertaining

See it if Make no mistake: Despite its comedic and occasionally campy touches, the play is actually smart, searing drama based on real history.

Don't see it if Would audiences who never saw The Sound of Music would appreciate this play in its own right?

Also The play is a “backstory”/re-imagination of what was going on when Jul... Read more Read less

Clever, Funny, Entertaining, Edgy, Thought-provoking

See it if You are a fan of the Sound of Music

Don't see it if You are a Sound of Music purist

Absorbing, Clever, Intelligent, Quirky, Thought-provoking

See it if If you are interested in historical fact wrapped in fictional characters - like Sound of Music? References entwine with drama

Don't see it if If you are expecting a comedy or musical. If you don't like transporting characters from one plot to another. WW2 painful

Clever, Great acting, Great writing, Hilarious, Must see

See it if you enjoyed "The Sound of Music", like back stories about the von Trapp family, or simply love to laugh (except for the final five minutes)

Don't see it if you don't think you can find any humor in Nazi Germany/Austria.

Clever, Intelligent, Funny, Thought-provoking, Great acting

See it if you'd like a serious, yet clever & funny, well written, smoothly directed & very well acted alternate take on Liesl's Sound of Music beau.

Don't see it if you've no interest in plays that reference other plays; dislike the von Trapps and/or Nazis; or are disturbed by male displays of affection.

Also The Sound of Music, like The Wizard of Oz or It’s a Wonderful Life — i... Read more Read less

Clever, Entertaining, Refreshing

See it if You know the story of The Sound of Music-it helps with the underlying story & humor. Like performance of the back stories of lesser chacters

Don't see it if you think it will be a musical or campy production of SOM or offended by a cherished character that may have a 'deviant' dark side.

Entertaining, Clever, Delightful, Thought-provoking

See it if The Sound of Music is a fav; open to a clever, humorous, yet moving piece, with fun lyric references. A few wonderful acting performances.

Don't see it if Gay relationships/action is a turn off. You're a TSOM purist. Are done with Nazi topics, even as referred to in a musical story.

Cast & Creatives (9)