Friday, August 7, 2009

Way to Heaven . . .

. . . could be called, but losing the title's beautiful irony, Way to Hell.

Deep and indelible, it's a masterwork by Spanish playwright Juan Mayorga, inspired by the Nazis' successful efforts to mislead the Red Cross about conditions at the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

Way to Heaven opens with the anguished monologue of a former Red Cross inspector reliving his visit to the camp, now knowing he shouldn't have believed his own eyes.

Next we see the rehearsal and creation of what he saw: a play performed by camp inmates, meant to illustrate comfortable daily life in a Jewish community complete with synagogue, written by the camp's commandant and the community leader drafted by Berlin to be "mayor" of the fake town.

Moral choice and the power of theater are among the themes of this brilliant work. It casts audience members in the role of witness, and challenges us to examine what we would do--and perhaps what we will do.

Well-known abroad, Mayorga has had work produced in 18 countries, but this is his first U.S. production. I hope it's the first of many.

If you're in New York City, you can see it in an extraordinary production at the Teatro Circulo, 64 E. 4th St.

Go, if you can, on August 9, when Inge Aurerbacher, author of I am a Star: Child of the Holocaust, and survivor of Theresienstadt, will appear at a talk-back after the performance, or August 16, when the playwright will speak. It closes on August 23.

If you see it, you'll never forget it.

No comments: