Little Willy Reviewed
By Doug Strassler Apr 17, 2006, 1:24 GMT
Nepotism and name-dropping can usually advance one's fortune, but in the case of the title character in Little Willy, currently playing downtown at the Ohio Theatre, family ties have an inverse effect on such success.
Mark Kassen brazenly stars in, as well as writes, the new play, in which he stars as the nephew of Adolf Hitler. According to the play, Hitler's half-brother Alois conceived the man, (nee William Patrick Hitler), with an Irish woman named Brigid Dowling. Over the course of director John Gould Rubin's fluid direction, Kassen delivers one fast-paced diatribe after another to tell the story Willy's desperate attempts from 1936 to 1943 to find career succor. First he tried to squeeze a job from his nefarious uncle, but he ultimately emigrated from Germany, at one point even asking President Roosevelt if he could fight in the United States army.
Willy's life is a curious topic, but one that gets relatively short shrift. Willy plays more as factoid than character study; we see Kassen peddling everything from gum to Volkswagens, as well as pantomiming several sexual encounters, all of which leave his female counterparts unsatisfied (and thus turning the play's title into a double entendre). Kassen does a terrific job, but the material is too dry to sustain audience interest for too long.
The most interesting fact posited by Kassen's play is an anecdote during the play's coda, which reveals that Willy had four sons in Queens. Three of them survived and still live in Long Island, having made a pact to never marry or have children, thus ending the family's bloodline. One cannot help but imagine what an intriguing show their story would have made.