'Here There Are Blueberries' review — uncovering a lesser-known snapshot of history

Read our review of Here There Are Blueberries off Broadway, a New York-premiere play inspired by real events and created by Moisés Kaufman and Amanda Gronich.

Kyle Turner
Kyle Turner

We go to the theatre because it is live: We have the opportunity, no matter how big or small the production, how crowded or sparse the venue is, or how realistic or spectacular it might be for the sake of being in the room with living, breathing people. It is the opposite of photography, which is one moment frozen in time, immovable, dead.

The tension between the aliveness of theatre and the static nature of photography offers a compelling opportunity to think about how people experience time and memory. Here There Are Blueberries, a nonfiction play about the investigation of an album of photos of Nazi officers at Auschwitz donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, is sure to remind you that what’s horrifying about these photos is as much what isn’t captured as what is.

But The Laramie Project alums Moisés Kaufman and Amanda Gronich do less to mine that tension than repeatedly reiterate the same ideas: moral grey areas exist; Nazis were not so much monsters as regular people who did monstrous things; and the forces of propaganda and a desire for belonging can blind people to genocidal ideology. Rebecca Erbelding (Elizabeth Stahlmann) repeats her incredulity that these photos, discovered in 2007, could depict such a casualness and wonders aloud how some of the subjects in the album, several of them young women, could have possibly been Nazis.

The cast plays researchers and employees at the museum debating the ethics of displaying the photographs of Nazi banality as well as some of the figures featured in the photographs. With few exceptions, not much is theatrical about the experience: rather than dramatizing the process of discovering the photos, identifying the subjects, or turning the photos into performance, the show shifts between TED Talk-styled testimonial and scenes of conversations between researcher and subject that slide into monologue.

The complex questions Here There Are Blueberries raises – What do archives tell us about both the past and present? How close are we to evil? How we do use memory and history for good? – are worthwhile subjects. But Here There Are Blueberries's form and writing are not truly revelatory, much less a wake-up call.

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Here There Are Blueberries summary

In 2007, archivist Rebecca Erbelding makes a case to her superiors at the United States Holocaust Museum to investigate and display a never-before-seen photo album depicting Nazis at Auschwitz in joy and rest — not, as people are used to, photos of the horrific genocidal crimes. As she tracks down the origins of the photos, she uncovers essential questions about how and why we record things, who they’re meant for, and how close to the edge of evil everyone stands.

What to expect at Here There Are Blueberries

David Begall's projections do a lot of work for Here There Are Blueberries. They often loom behind and above the actors like a slideshow. And Derek McLane’s production design makes the archives of the museum, with many hulking gray desks, makes an already heavy venture that much more sterile and foreboding.

It feels like the show teases a more dynamic production, with so many things on stage to wheel around and use as tools to indicate a new setting or space, to play with the layout of a proscenium where history can both be placed beneath a microscope but be transformed into something with a pulse. But those props don’t move much, and nor does the narrative.

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What audiences are saying about Here There Are Blueberries

Leading up to and after Here There Are Blueberries's recognition as a 2024 Pulitzer Prize for Drama finalist, audience members praised the show's handling of complex themes. The play has a 91% audience approval rating on Show-Score.

  • “Tectonic keeps it fresh. Another landmark docudrama from the best.” - Show-Score user Stephi L
  • “See it if [you] want a show that dives into history, who and when [people] are complicit in war crimes, and how we glue the pieces of the past together.” - Show-Score user Opa Dale
  • “A searing picture of the banality of evil.” - Show-Score user Bruce 6

Read more audience reviews of Here There Are Blueberries on Show-Score.

Who should see Here There Are Blueberries

  • Those curious about the complex and uncomfortable notion that evil is ultimately perpetrated by regular people, akin to Hannah Arendt’s observations in the movies Eichmann in Jerusalem and The Zone of Interest, should see this play.
  • Fans of Kaufman and Gronich’s previous collaboration The Laramie Project will be interested to see how their signature documentary style of theatre has evolved.
  • People interested in photography and what it can and cannot reveal about history and humanity will be interested by Here There Are Blueberries.

Learn more about Here There Are Blueberries

Here There Are Blueberries orbits around compelling themes and ideas about history, evil, and genocide, but its style doesn’t quite flesh out the complexities, nuances, and contemporary connections to the show’s heavy subject matter.

Learn more and get Here There Are Blueberries tickets on New York Theatre Guide. Here There Are Blueberries is at New York Theatre Workshop through June 16.

Photo credit: Here There Are Blueberries off Broadway. (Photos by Matthew Murphy)

Originally published on

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