The Imaginary, All-True Leni Riefenstahl Show

Genre: Drama-Comedy
Written by: Jen Ryan, Craig O'Connor, Leonard Jacobs
Directed by: Franz Liebkind
Performed by: Jen Ryan, Rik Sansone
Running time: One hour, 40 minutes
Web site:

A German artist with Hitler as patron, Leni Riefenstahl directed the groundbreaking Olympia and controversial Nazi propaganda flick Triumph of the Will. After her reputation and opportunities fell with the Third Reich, she reinvented herself in her 70s as a celebrated underwater photographer. But that's a matter of historical record. In this extremely ambitious, multimedia bio-drama—as vintage stills and captioned asides cover the backdrop—Jen Ryan and cohort Rik Sansone reenact real moments from the infamous filmmaker's life and take creative license by staging surreal scenes of pop culture superstardom with Leni Riefenstahl on The Match Game and Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. Taking a cue from Claudia Shear's Dirty Blonde, writer/performer Ryan places a version of herself in the narrative as she picks apart Riefenstahl's life and her obsession with it. Switching between her own stage persona and this larger-than-life personality, Ryan defends and celebrates her muse while simultaneously debunking Riefenstahl's proclaimed naivete. In an inspired move, Ryan also Americanizes Riefenstahl by playing her as a Berlin's answer to an aspiring Hollywood starlet with no social conscience. It's a performance that rarely uses an accent or misses a beat.—Drew Pisarra

Reality Check: The director credited, Franz Liebkind, is a fictional character. He's the ex-Nazi in The Producers who pens the play Springtime for Hitler. Rumor is that dramaturg Leonard Jacobs actually helmed The Imaginary, All-True Leni Riefenstahl Show.

Where: The Studio at Cherry Lane Theatre
When: Thu, Aug 29 at 7 p.m.; Fri, Aug 20 at 3 p.m.; Sun, Aug 22 at 5:30 p.m.; Tue, Aug 24 at 8 p.m.; Sun, Aug 29 at 2 p.m.

Published August 23, 2004