Levin and Levin review: A whirlwind history that obscures its strengths

Fleeing persecution, the Levin Brothers conceal their sex and identity, and grow into a vaudevillian act that wanders the world. The production might have kept less of its potential hidden

Broken Crow’s Levin and Levin.  Photograph: Marcin Lewandowski

Broken Crow’s Levin and Levin. Photograph: Marcin Lewandowski

 

Levin and Levin

Project Arts Centre

***

Fleeing anti-Jewish pogroms in early 20th-century Russia, the Levin Brothers hide their identities in order to survive, learning to repress and conceal as they wander the world. Something similar happens to BrokenCrow’s production of Aideen Wylde’s ambitious play, a show that intimates itself as a cabaret revue of the early 20th century, told by a double-act of subterfuge and resilience, but that unwisely keeps its potential hidden until too late.

Wilde hints at the disguises of performance: truth and a fiction meet in the Levin brothers act, we are told, an imagined flight through real history, where Wylde’s cautious Bubbie/Boris and George Hanover’s commanding Ida/Ivan are not what they seem to be. But the decision to obscure an invigorating and precise band, hidden behind a screen, for the sake of correspondence with their fugitive narrative, leaves the performance with an inert space.

It works against various devices employed by directors Veronica Coburn and Bryan Burroughs, bleeding colour from vaudevillian depictions of the brothers’ unlikely encounters with figures from Stalin and Hitler to Freud and Zelda Fitzgerald.

The show hits its stride in the third act, where the duo take full possession of their identity and their story, with a fateful return to Weimar Germany its resurging persecution. The Levins’ right to the brio and chutzpah of cabaret has been hard earned; it seems a shame to deny it to them any longer.

Runs until Friday

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