This week in Salem Verona Studio continues its run of the play “Blonde Poison”.
It’s a one-woman show about Stella Kubler-Isaacson. She was a Jewish informant credited with exposing hundreds — possibly thousands — of other Jews for the Third Reich. The play portrays her as deluded, devious, and utterly disoriented by the breakdown of normal life in Nazi Germany.
Carol Adams Fritsche plays Kubler-Isaacson.
The play was adapted in large part from a 1992 book written by the late journalist Peter Wyden. Wyden knew Stella Kulber-Isaacson when they were kids, going to the same school for Jewish kids in Berlin. His family left for the United States in 1937.
Senator Ron Wyden is Peter Wyden’s son.
“He felt it was very important for Jewish kids to understand what Hitler had done,” Wyden says. Over the years, Peter Wyden “kept getting reports from friends, survivors, former schoolmates that Stella was still alive, and that she was very reclusive. And so my dad decided he was going to do the story.”
The late journalist himself does not appear in the play. Instead, the audience sees Stella Kubler-Isaacson’s internal monologue as she waits for Peter Wyden’s visit. She looks back on a life of cruel times and disastrous choices.
In his life, Peter Wyden said that, despite her vanity and her crimes, he felt it was not his place to judge Stella Kubler-Isaacson.
Ron Wyden is less circumspect. He says he has known too many Holocaust survivors.
“I will confess I can’t find an ounce of compassion for Stella. She had other choices.”
But the play, “Blond Poison” allows some time to consider moral ambiguities.
Susan Coromel co-chairs the Theatre Department at Willamette University, and is directing the show.
“I think what’s really compelling about the story is how young [Kubler-Isaacson] was,” Coromel says. “She was 14 when she was put into the school where all the Jewish children were safely put away out of necessity, because they were being bullied so badly. Shortly after that, she was faced with Kristallnacht. And then she was tortured, and her parents were taken away. There was a time when her life could have gone in a completely different direction.”
But the play is uncompromising in its portrayal of Kubler-Isaacson’s anti-Semitism and her denial of her own culpability. “I was never compensated,” she rages. “Why did I never get anything?”
Kubler-Isaacson died by suicide in 1994.
“Blonde Poison” is onstage through March 7th. Verona Studio in Salem is presenting the show at the Reed Opera House.