'Roses in June' at Plays & Players: Well-meaning, ambitious, ultimately tedious

ROSES IN JUNE
(Left to right:) Bob Heath, Kyle Fennie, Ian Agnew, Kirsten Quinn, Tyler Brennan, Eric Cover, and Jay Romero in “The Roses in June” at Plays & Players Theatre.

The Roses in June, having its world premiere at Plays & Players Theatre, was written by Timothy M. Kolman. His credentials are impressive: a posh education in London, prestigious legal and judicial appointments in both the United Kingdom and the United States, and experience as a combat veteran of the Israeli Defense Force. He is a child of German Jewish refugees.  Unfortunately, none of these actually equips a person to write a play, even if the play is, as The Roses in June is, about a boy who is the child of German Jewish refugees and attends a posh London school.

The  play’s subject is anti-Semitism – in 1940s Germany, the 1960s Middle East, and, by implication, any time – so when the pompous, elitist headmaster (Nigel Taplow, shaky in his lines) says, in 1967, of the school’s population, “We are seeing a decline in the integrity of British culture,” he could be speaking now.

Paul Rose (Tyler Brennan) and Abdul Amin (Jay Romero) are friends and classmates at St. Crispin’s. At some point – unexplained and chronologically confused in the plot – Abdul becomes radicalized as a Jew-hating Muslim, much to the horror of his father (Eric Cover).  Bullying and physical violence occur at the school, victimizing the Jewish Paul. These acts are presumably triggered by the flashy English literature lecturer (Colin Davies) who, while teaching Dickens’ Oliver Twist, makes the case that Dickens’ portrait of “Fagin as the archetypal Jew” is evidence of his anti-Semitism. Paul’s mother (Kirsten Quinn) and father (Ian Agnew) are appalled that this terror has followed them, 25 years later, as they relive the nightmare they escaped.

We are made to sit through various lectures, chastisements, letters, and school assemblies; almost everything is repeated twice if not thrice, and several scenes seem altogether unnecessary to the plot.  The cast, under the direction of Alan Radway, tries to put life into this tedious script, but to no avail.

The Roses in June. Through July 1 at Plays & Players Theatre,  1714 Delancey. Tickets: $35-$47. Information: 866-811-4111 or rosesinjune.com.