Horror doesn’t always announce its arrival; it can overtake us gradually. Few occupants of Germany in the years after World War I, for example, could have predicted the Holocaust, although in retrospect the signs look so clear.
In Janet Schlapkohl’s play “My Sister,” at the Odyssey Theatre, two sisters struggle to make a living in 1930s Berlin, where the National Socialist Party has recently taken control. Magda is a hospital nurse by day who performs in a cabaret at night; her identical twin, Matilde, has cerebral palsy and stays in their one-room apartment, writing jokes and songs for Magda’s act.
Matilde, who listens to a contraband shortwave radio, is leerier of the Nazis. Rebellious, brainy and prone to astringent jokes (“It’s incurable,” she says when Magda chastises her), she is aware that she is vulnerable. Although neither twin has any real idea of what’s coming, the audience does; and this knowledge invests their girls’ exchanges with weighty symbolism.
“My Sister” ran in a shorter version at the Hollywood Fringe Festival last year, directed by Paul David Story; the Odyssey’s artistic director, Ron Sossi, worked with Schlapkohl to expand the script, and he co-directs this production.
“My Sister,” Odyssey Theatre, 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Los Angeles. 8 p.m. some Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. (See website for complete schedule.) Ends March 16. $25-$34. (310) 477-2055, ext. 2, or www.OdysseyTheatre.com. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.