Angel in the Night

Angel in the Night; 8 p.m., Friday, Saturday; 2 p.m. Sunday; $15-$20. California Stage Theater, R25 Arts Center, 1723 25th Street; (916) 451-5822; Through September 13.
Rated 3.0

We’re losing a generation of storytellers who, as they die, take their life stories with them—or as California Stage Artistic Director Ray Tatar said on opening night of Angel in the Night, “the tales of World War II are sliding out of the living memories.”

Angel in the Night, by playwright Joanna H. Kraus, is one such story, based on the true accounts of a Polish teenager who risked her life by hiding a Jewish family from Nazi soldiers. It’s the compelling story of Mary Szul—named Pawlina in the play—who later in life was honored for her wartime heroism.

The play starts with Pawlina as an elderly woman looking back on her life, and the story soon shifts to when she was a young Catholic girl living on her family farm and having to make difficult life-threatening decisions. During World War II, sheltering Jews was punishable by death—a risk young Pawlina faces when she chooses to defy her mother and for two years takes in a Jewish family and a rambunctious teenager.

Director Michael RJ Campbell brings out a couple of nice performances from actors including Tara Cartozian, a Sacramento State drama student making her Sacramento theater debut as Pawlina, and Daniel Dorofeyev as the Nazi officer. Set changes need to be smoothed out and quickened, and having the elderly Pawlina (Janet Motenko) onstage watching the action and mouthing dialogue of her younger self proves to be a distraction.