Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
By David Avery
The play is a dramatic account of the true story of Franz Jagerstatter, who in 1943 refused to join the German army and was executed for it. He felt it was immoral and against the teachings of the Catholic Church to participate in the evils of the Nazi state, and demonstrated his position by refusing to wear the Nazi uniform. Most of the drama is devoted to various characters attempting to talk Jagerstatter out of his decision, and flashbacks to earlier, happier times.
This is a well put together production. Neil Patel's set is stark and grey (with a large backdrop that is used as a film screen) that both suggests Jagerstatter's damp cell and allows for quick set shifts when the action moves into the past. Gareth Saxe's Jagerstatter possesses a quality of saintliness that is convincing. The cast members work well together, and there is both emotional and dramatic tension as they attempt to dissuade Jagerstatter from his chosen path.
What's missing is a central core that would allow the audience to really care about the Jagerstatter instead of seeing him simply a saint that is standing up to temptation. Again and again. And yet again the main character is challenged in the same way and gives the same response.
Some other missteps include a scene in which Jagerstatter seems to rap his lines. There's also the unsubtle title motif. The original title, Eye Witness entails a much subtler double-entendre without trying to take it into the realm of cyberspace.
The confrontation between Jagerstatter and Fr. Jochmann (Michael Rudko) represents the evening's high point. Their debate on the true meaning of piety holds some of the core struggle that should infuse the rest of the play. All of the arguments that Jochmann puts forth are material (of "Caeser" so to speak) and reflect a desire to not rock the boat. When Jagerstatter talks of how he was the sole vote in his village against Austria's being annexed by Germany, Jochmann asks "Who are you to decide what is the wrong direction?" Later Jochmann's only reply to Jagerstatters claims of death camps is "What you call facts are nothing more than a story!" Both statements are ironic in historical hindsight, as well as in the context of current global politics.
As in some of the best of plays about morality and society (George Bernard Shaw comes to mind), Sobol's own voice is barely contained behind his characters. And while using the Nazi's as the backdrop for all that is evil in the world is a bit cheap, it makes a lot more dramatic sense when you know that this play was not written for the United States, but for Israelis currently engaged in a struggle with most of the Arab world. Sobol has spoken in support of Israeli pilots who refuse to bomb targets in Palestine and the territories.
iWitness is going to speak to any government's demand for unquestioned loyalty. Franz Jagerstatter's story is an inspiring and moving one, but it might be better if the message wasn't so shrilly spoken and more subtly dramatized
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
>6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.