At STC: ‘Here There are Blueberries’ a Mesmerizing, Unnerving Historical Mystery

Photo of Elizabeth Stahlmann, Erika Rose, Grant James Varjas, and Maboud Ebrahimzadeh in of Here There Are Blueberries by DJ Corey Photography

It’s a departure from what you might expect at Shakespeare Theatre, but the historic mystery on stage at STC’s Harmon Hall, Here There are Blueberries, is nevertheless an enthralling masterpiece. And it is based on a true story that started here in DC at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Photo of Kathleen Chalfant, Nemuna Ceesay (background), Maboud Ebrahimzadeh, and Elizabeth Stahlmann in Here There Are Blueberries by DJ Corey Photography

Archivists at the museum are used to people — usually Holocaust survivors and their families — sending their important memorabilia to them. But when an archivist receives an album of photographs that shows the memories at Auschwitz from the other side — the Nazi side — it is unexpected, unprecedented, and unnerving.

This is because the 116 photos, with captions, in this album are so much like the albums anyone might have on their shelf: Marking special occasions. Carefree leisure time. Ordinary everyday life.

And all of this haunting banality starkly contrasts the murderous atrocities that we know were happening mere steps away.

Photo of Scott Barrow, Nemuna Ceesay, and Kathleen Chalfant in Here There Are Blueberries by DJ Corey Photography.

In Here There Are Blueberries, an ensemble of eight actors (each takes on multiple roles, but this is not confusing) using a deceptively simple, transformational set design (Derek McLane) to take the audience inside the album itself and detail how the museum painstakingly pieced together information about the photographs and the people shown in them.

Photo of the cast of Here There Are Blueberries by DJ Corey Photography.

While the museum is a memorial to the victims, staff like archivist Rebecca Erbelding (Elizabeth Stahlmann) and Judy Cohen (Kathleen Chalfant) describe how staff wrestles with the desire to show this new artifact.

Ultimately, Here There Are Blueberries challenges audiences to consider society and their role within it. It leads viewers to question what other treasure troves might have been (or are being) lost to history. And it’s a helluva 90 minutes of powerfully gripping theatre.

Here There Are Blueberries plays May 7 through 28, 2023,  at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Harman Hall, 610 F Street NW, Washington, DC. Tickets ($35–$125) are available at the box office, online, or by calling (202) 547-1122. 90 minutes, no intermission.