NY Theater Review By Marcina Zaccaria
Wiesenthal, the compelling story of the holocaust survivor who later brought Nazi war criminals to justice, opened on November 5th at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row.
The play, written by and starring Tom Dugan, takes place at The Jewish Documentation Center in Vienna, Austria. So different than a documentary that you could watch on the small screen, Wiesenthal proves to be an engrossing experience. Dugan (Amadeus, On Golden Pond, starring Jack Klugman), received the Los Angeles Drama Critics’ Circle Award and three Ovation nominations for his portrayal of Mr. Wiesenthal.
The actor/ playwright chooses to look at Wiesenthal two years before his death in 2005. The play proves to be an engaging story that is important to be told, even when “words are not enough.” Anecdote after anecdote, Wiesenthal is a figure who not only witnesses, but also stands. He recalls the crimes against humanity and moments of the past, bringing war criminals to justice. Onstage with books and photos, the walls light up behind him in blue, red, yellow, and orange. With each monologue, the audience understands the need to remember and be remembered.
A man who brought 1,100 Nazi war criminals to justice, Wiesenthal is quick to share with the audience the pain of holocaust. In the play, he says what it was like to be marched from place to place and faint out of hunger. As people all around him were dying, he had not only a survivor’s need to remember, but to find justice after the war. His documentation center in Vienna contained interviews with survivors who endured the unspeakable tragedies of the holocaust. Wiesenthal fought not only for the rights of Jews, but also for Gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other victims.
With direction by Jenny Sullivan, Wiesenthal is a fine character portrait, and a deeply human drama. The stories are remarkable, and the playwright balances the truth about the subject matter with moments of levity. As a performer, Dugan is constantly engaging the audience, and even asks them to call for his wife, Sela, in the play. He also throws in quick phrases like, “if you laugh at each other, you refuse to kill each other.”
Wiesenthal is designed by Tony Award winning scenic designer Beowulf Boritt, (Act One at Lincoln Center Theatre, On The Town on Broadway, Obie Award recipient for Sustained Excellence in Scenic Design). Costume designer Alex Jaeger (Two Sisters and a Piano at The Public Theatre, Venus in Fur at ACT) brings a contemporary flair to the stage, and Joel E. Silver (Blue Man Group in Berlin, Tokio Confidential at Atlantic Stage) designed the lights. Shane Rettig (When January Feels Like Summer at Ensemble Studio Theatre) creates an immersive theater experience with sounds of Europe during and after the war.
Wiesenthal is playing at the Acorn Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 W. 42nd Street. Performances are Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7pm, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm, with matinees Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2pm, and Sundays at 3pm. Visit www.WiesenthalThePlay.com for additional information.