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Flight into Egypt

At the Colonial

By Joseph P. Lorenz

Flight into Egypt, novelist George Tabori's first play, is a tense, emotional drama of Viennese expatriates stranded in Cairo. It is a tragedy of a broken nation, and it is the tragedy of one family trapped at the crossroads between nations. Mr. Tabori is clearly more interested in the second problem, and the play becomes a slow-moving, though extremely intense, psychological study of the Engel family and its efforts to obtain passage for America.

Strictly speaking there is very little plot. Franz Engel, wounded in the war and much older than his wife, is forced to depend on her completely while they await their visas in a stifling hotel in Cairo. His wife and son, Bubi, resort to all manner of strategems to obtain money enough to keep the family alive until the visas arrive. As the fight for survival becomes more and more difficult, their strategems become more and more degrading.

All manner of soldiers, doctors, refugees, and Arabs wander on and off the stage, but they all contribute more to the development of Lili Engel's character than to any coherent story. Their own character are sketchily drawn; one--a hunchback doctor by the name of Ghoulos--makes no sense at all. Except for Freund, a Viennese merchant convincingly portrayed by Paul Mann, these minor characters generally overact, perhaps because Director Elia Kazan feels the need of sharp contrast to the complexity of Mrs. Engel.

The two outstanding performances of the play, which make it a rewarding dramatic experience in spite of its structural defects, are the interpretations of Mr. and Mrs. Engel by Paul Lukas and Gusti Huber. The latter, an Austrian actress appearing for the first time on an American stage, is particularly excellent in the difficult role of a cultured woman whose ideals and emotions corrode away in the struggle to live. Mr. Lukas is extremely moving in his portrayal of a proud man with indomitable will, who refused to believe that physical weakness could prevent him from achieving his goal.

Jo Mielziner's one set effectively catches the mood of a hot, sultry Cairo. His lighting is also skillfully designed to dimly illuminate a squalid flat and, at the same time, to shine brightly on the street outside.

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