|Tom Dugan. Photo: Carol Rosegg|
A Visit with the ‘Jewish James Bond’
By Lauren Yarger
The man who brought more than 1,100 Nazi war criminals to justice is brought to life Off-Broadway by Tom Dugan, who stars in Wiesenthal, the one-man play he penned about the Holocaust survivor-turned-human-rights activist.
Set on the eve of his retirement in 2003, Simon Wiesenthal packs up his office at the Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, Austria (designed by Beowulf Boritt) and reflects on his life and successes in hunting down Nazi war criminals.
Shame was a most dangerous force, he recalls, and he tells his story in the hope that hearing it will keep history from repeating itself.
He gives voice not only to the more than 6 million Jews who lost their lives, but also to an additional 5 million Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Gypsies, disabled persons and others whom Hitler targeted for extinction.
The play, presented in 90 minutes without intermission, touches on Wiesenthal’s passions: his determination to bring Nazis to justice and his resolve to live a life of purpose and love with his family. This, he tells us, exacts the perfect revenge.
Directed by Jenny Sullivan, Dugan gives a solid performance, moved by his own passion for the subject.
"I am thrilled to make my New York debut with Wiesenthal," Dugan said. "My father was a WWII veteran who received The Bronze Battle Star and The Purple Heart. He liberated the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in 1945. Although I was raised Irish Catholic, I later married a Jewish woman, and now we are raising our two boys in the Jewish faith, so Simon Wiesenthal's message of tolerance has a deep resonance for me considering my father's place in Jewish history and my future in the Jewish community.”
The play itself could use a few tweaks – it doesn’t touch on any of the controversy associated with Wiesenthal and there is an unnecessary tease about his “final question.” Also, some staging, obviously inserted to give the actor something to do, interrupts the flow.
Otherwise it is a great opportunity to learn more about history and about the “The Jewish James Bond” who helped shape it. Most compelling is a scene where Wiesenthal talks about Adolph Eichmann, an average man and bookkeeper, who became one of the major organizers of the Holocaust. A photo of the criminal is chillingly lighted (design by Joel E. Silver) while the actor speaks about the man who sent Jews on the trains to the death camps. Wiesenthal was instrumental in tracking down Eichmann at his Buenos Aires hideaway and bringing him to court, where he was tried, found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death.
The production recently posted a closing date of Feb. 22, so catch it while you can. As a special bonus, the producers of Wiesenthal invite survivors of the Holocaust to attend an upcoming performance as their guest, and offer a special $45 ticket for friends and family to share the experience with them. To arrange for tickets, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your request at least one week prior to your preferred performance date (subject to availability).
Wiesenthal plays at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd St., NYC. Performances: Tuesday and Thursday at 7 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Friday at 8 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets: $69 http://www.wiesenthaltheplay.com; (212) 239-6200.
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