Springtime for Spring Rolls: Teutonic Twits Masticate for the Master Race

Olivia Gill, Caitlin Zambito, Paige Simunovich , all photos by Jeff Lorch

Attorney George Conway considers the Donald to be “unwell,” a “narcissistic sociopath,”
and George should know – his wife, Kellyanne Conway, campaigned for, then worked
for Trump in the White House. On April 30, George said on MSNBC’s Deadline White
House that a way to influence non-fanatical voters to not cast their ballots for the ex-prez
is by “making fun of him.”
Sarcasm has often been used to cut strong men down to size; laughter lessens one’s fear
of the powerful. Adolph Hitler is a favorite tyrannical target and figure of ridicule to poke
fun at and belittle. Consider Spike Jones’ parody song “Der Fuehrer’s Face”; the Three Stooges’
1940 You Nazty Spy; and Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 masterpiece The Great Dictator.

Another maestro of mockery, Mel Brooks, devilishly deployed his wicked wit against
fascism. Brooks wrote the hilarious satirical song “Springtime for Hitler and Germany”
for the movie and Broadway versions of The Producers.  Saturday night I went to the Matrix Theatre on Melrose Avenue for the Hollywood
premiere of H*tler’s Tasters. The premise of this play is suggested by historical fact –
after Lt. Col. von Stauffenberg’s 1944 “Operation Valkyrie” assassination plot against
Hitler, Der Fuehrer’s security was tightened. This included a regimen of food tasters to
protect Adolph from being poisoned. To carry this out, adolescent Aryan females were
selected for the “high honor.” (According to the play Jews, “Gypsies”/Roma, and other
non-Germanic “undesirables” weren’t chosen to perform this hazardous task because the
official tasters had to have the same pure Aryan blood as Hitler had in order to be
physiologically compatible.)
This historical fact is the starting point that award-winning playwright, Michelle Kholos
Brooks, dramatizes and concocts her fakakta one-act play, H*tler’s Tasters around. Yes,
Mel Brooks’ daughter-in-law is following in his famous goosesteps and is lampooning
the Nazis (who, but of course, can never be harpooned enough). H*tler’s Tasters is a
satire with gallows (literally?) humor and a number of laughs. But unlike The Producers and Mel’s 2023 Hulu series History of the World: Part II’s “Hitler on Ice” routine with
an ice skating Fuehrer  Michelle’s play is more tragedy than comedy.

H*tler’s Tasters depicts several typical teenage German girls – the blonde Hilda (Olivia
Gill), whose father is high up in the Reich’s hierarchy – or so we’re told; the braided,
bespectacled Liesel (Paige Simunovich); Margot (Caitlin Zambito); and Anna (Ali
Axelrad – in an undisclosed location (the program says “A bunker”), circa 1944. The
Aryan adolescents have been drafted for a job that is extremely risky; nevertheless, the
ride of these Valkyries is quite boring: tasting their tyrant’s food about an hour before he
dines, lest assassins strike again and attempt to poison Hitler this time (instead of using
They are more or less typical teenagers and to make them more relatable to contemporary
audiences, the lasses all have smartphones (although the story unravels in the 1940s –
facts, schmacts!). Their tedium is worsened by the repetitive cuisine they’re fed, day in,
day out, as Der Fuehrer was a vegetarian! Achtung, there’s not a schnitzel to be seen –
it’s a veritable Götterdammerung!
To alleviate their sheer boredom, the Teutonic twits take selfies, gossip about boys, get
down and boogie, bicker. It turns out that these loyal daughters of the master race
actually prefer Hollywood movies to Leni Riefenstahl’s agitprop, and the wannabe
bobbysoxers debate whether they’d prefer having sex with Frank Sinatra – or with
Adolph. Should he deign to pay the tasters who daily risk their lives for him a visit in
their lair, they’re not worried that Hitler will take them by force – because, after all, the
teens quip, they’re “not Poland.”
Michelle’s well-acted, imaginative play, directed by Sarah Norris, is primarily a drama
decrying totalitarianism and anti-Semitism. Is this the time for a play with you-know-
who’s name in the title (albeit with an asterisk, in order to fool social media algorithms
and perhaps not step on tootsies understandably sensitive about Nazis)? Tasters certainly
isn’t for everybody’s taste. When the house was open for the upstairs intimate space at
the Matrix Theatre’s Henry Murray Stage, this fact was announced by a young man with
a ”Tomorrow Belongs to Me” mien and clad in a Nazi uniform inclduing, as I recall, a
swastika armband. (When the cast members do costume changes on stage their T-shirts
are also emblazoned with swastikas.) Some may think this is too much, but it certainly

gets your attention. During the reception I had an engaging conversation with Michelle
Kholos Brooks, who showed herself to be very thoughtful about what it means to be
Jewish nowadays. Some may find her work to be triggering and/or thought provoking,
but flippant she’s not.
Michelle’s many accolades includes being a finalist for the Fratti-Newman Political Play
Contest held by NY’s Castillo Theatre for her drama Hostage, which was staged by
L.A.’s Skylight Theatre and based on the true story about a mother who was permitted to
visit her son, a Marine, while he was being held captive in Tehran during the 1979
hostage crisis and the mom’s ensuing radicalization. (BTW, this contest is named in part
for Fred Newman, a leftwing psychotherapist I knew in NYC.) Michelle is also a
contributor to The Daily Beast and the Playwright in Residence at NewYorkRep. For
more info about her see: .
You don’t have to be fascist to love H*tler’s Tasters, a real anti-Nazi play. Guten appetit!
Rogue Machine Theatre presents H*tler’s Tasters at 8:00 p.m. on Fridays, Mondays;
5:00 p.m. on Saturdays; 7:00 p.m. on Sundays (no performance Monday, May 13),
through June 3 at the Henry Murray Stage, upstairs at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose
Avenue, L.A., California, 90048. For reservations call ​(855)585-5185 or . Rogue Machine’s Monsters of the American
Cinema is being performed through May 19 on the Matrix’s main stage.
L.A.-based reviewer Ed Rampell co-authored ;The Hawaii Movie and Television