Regional Premiere of Microcrisis at Interact Theatre

Global Financial Crisis

If the bid for the Republican nomination has got you down, if spring time in February makes you wonder about global warming, if robo-calls during dinner time exasperate you, you might want to head to InterAct Theatre’s lively production of Microcrisis, a new satire written by Michael Lew and directed by Seth Rozin.   The play takes you from a Monaco casino to a Washington D.C racquetball court in a fast-paced 80 minute romp that follows characters through a corrupt microcredit investment scheme not unfamiliar to most Americans.    

More after the jump.
Microcrisis imagines a global lending scheme run amok when a hard-partying financial entrepreneur bites off more than he can chew.  Playwright Lew says,

When the financial first hit, I was shocked to see the global economy evaporating, and I wanted to look at the root causes of a quickly-evolving , complex manmade disaster.  While global finance might not seem like rife ground for comedy, the more I researched, the more the bankers’ behavior and government complicity struck me as being absurd.

Rozin’s direction is superb as is the acting and the sets, designed by Caitlin Lainoff. As the corrupt investment banker, Bennett, played by Kevin Bergen, is a character you love to hate.  The actor Frank X plays Acquah, a man in Ghana running a tiny mobile-phone leasing business – as well as Frankfurt, Bennett’s corrupt insider boss, who now has a cushy Washington job.  

Rozin says,

I knew when I first read Microcrisis that I wanted to produce and direct it.  The play was so funny, so smart, so theatrical and so incredibly timely.  We had no idea, however, that several months later the play would be so much timelier in the midst of Occupy Wall Street movement.  Current events have put Microcrisis in a whole new light.

The play premiered in New York City at the Ma-Yi Theater in Fall 2012.  

Following the second and third Tuesday and Wednesday performances of every production, patrons are invited to stay for Coffee Conversations, informal discussion with company artists.  During Microcrisis, Coffee Conversations are scheduled for Tuesday, February 7 and Wednesday, February 8.   A thought provoking play like Microcrisis would seem to welcome a some smart post-performance coffee talk.  

Individual Tickets for Microcrisis are on sale now.  Subscriptions and tickets may be purchased by calling InterAct’s box office at 215-568-8079 or by dropping by the theatre at The Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia or by visiting InterAct’s website.

What Does Normal Feel Like


Christopher Durang’s Why Torture is Wrong, And The People Who Love Them

New City Stage Company’s 2011-2012 season began on December 10th at the Adrienne Theatre Main Stage with a Philadelphia premiere of Christopher Durang’s satire Why Torture is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them, directed by Michael K. Brophy.   The play is part of season called The Terror Within, a body of work that considers political and ethical questions posed a decade after 9/11.  What does it mean to live in a world of terrorists?  

More after the jump.

Why Torture is Wrong is a fast-paced comedy/tragedy about America’s ongoing “war on terror.”  A young woman, Felicity (played beautifully by Ginger Dayle, the founder and Producing Artistic Director of New City Stage) wakes up to a strange man, Zamir (perfectly cast Sam Henderson) – to discover that at a drunken evening at Hooters she married this would-be terrorist, or alcoholic or man on parole.  Seeking comfort at her parents New Jersey home, we encounter her crazy mother Luella (played magnificently by Marcia Saunders) and her alleged butterfly raising Republican, Jane Fonda hating Father, Leonard (played by Paul L. Nolan).   Durang doesn’t stop there but pushes us to a dark place where our fears of the sociopath next door make us squirm in our seats.  

The play deftly explores how political issues like terrorism and torture get played out in the private space of home.   At one point, Luella puts down her needlepoint and retreats to the kitchen to make French toast: You can postpone angry exchanges until your stomach is nice and full.   Leonard, who we learn is involved in a Shadow Government plot to overthrow terrorists – wants to rename French toast Freedom Toast.  Head to the Adrienne if only to meet the “porn again” Revered Mike in a superb performance by Russ Widdall and Hidegarde, aka Scooby Doo, played by Sonja Robson, and The Voice, played by Ed Swidey.  The acting and pacing of this production are spot-on.  The sets, designed by S. Corey Palmer also deserve mention, as they are understated and effective.  

Durang, who currently co-chairs with Marsha Norman, the Playwriting Program at the Juillard School, has a large body of work which have received Tony nominations and Obie awards, including A History of the American Film, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, and Durang/Durang.    

In an otherwise provocative two hours of theatre, the final scene seems to want to end on a lighter, sweeter, more hopeful note than the previous 90 minutes we’ve spent with these zany, lost, disturbed characters who “identify with bullies.”  In the final scene, Felicity returns to the scene of the crime at Hooters, in an effort to reverse time.  This is part of the play’s clever internal commentary about the theatre itself, linear time, and “unspeakable things that happen at night.”    Luella says: “I go to the theatre to learn what normal is.”   Durang’s play asks us to consider what is normal is a post 9/11 world.  

The play runs through January 8th.
Adrienne Theatre Main Stage
2030 Sansom Street, Philadelphia, PA

Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s Filmmaker, Arrested in Philadelphia

–by Henrik Eger

A beautiful young woman, clutching her film reel like a Torah, is fighting to defend her work against an arresting American officer in occupied Austria in 1946. Reluctantly, with a pistol in her face, she hands over the canister. Then, in a demanding voice, she says, “Cut! We’ll do it again.”

Playing Leni, by David Robson and John Stanton, directed by the innovative Seth Reichgott, and produced by Madhouse Theater Company at the Adrienne Theater in Philadelphia, looks at the manipulations of Leni Riefenstahl, the F├╝hrer’s most influential filmmaker, her many propaganda films, and her denial that she glorified the Nazi Empire, numbing millions to the horrors to come.

More after the jump.

Doyenne of Denial

Playing Leni centers around Riefenstahl vehemently rejecting any accusations that her heroic propaganda films contributed to the Third Reich and the Holocaust.

During the play, the audiences witness an excerpt from Riefenstahl’s original film Tiefland (Lowland) with Gypsies as Spanish peasant extras. The soldier tries to get Riefenstahl to confess that the actors were from a forced labor camp and that she made a contract with the SS to hire them, despite knowing that most of them would end up murdered in Auschwitz shortly after the shooting.

Riefenstahl, doyenne of denial, claims that she still maintains a wonderful correspondence with many of them. However, the soldier tries to tear down her web of fabrication: “All of those extras have been exterminated!”

Riefenstahl shrugs off the accusation, “I am a director, not a casting agent.” The soldier, unimpressed, pushes on: “What did you know about the systematic murders of Jews, homosexuals, Gypsies-?”  The woman who was closer to Hitler and Goebbels than anyone outside the Nazi hierarchy, renounces all accusation of involvement, adamantly declaring, “This won’t be in my film or any film!”

Cat-and-Mouse Games

Audiences of Riefenstahl’s works, like Triumph of the Will or the two famous 1936 Olympic films, may not have realized that they got played and sucked into toxic, persuasive propaganda.

Similarly, Frau Riefenstahl, the mistress of power and control (compellingly portrayed by Amanda Grove), goes all out to seduce the arresting U.S. soldier (the multi-talented Robert DaPonte) by playing Leni, browbeating him-and the audience-into submission: “No Leni, no movie,” and, “This is my story and my arrest!  So stop screwing around with B-movie shit!”

She manages to turn her brief incarceration into a scene where she coaxes the American officer into acting various parts, forcing him to play her role while interacting with Goebbels. She even manages to get him to play a German officer who kills prisoners in Poland while she films the scene.

The soldier, unwillingly dragged into Riefenstahl’s cat-and-mouse game, tries to turn the situation to his advantage by working on her script as his ruse to get her cooperation and to reveal information before the Nuremberg trials.

Just when the soldier thinks he has caught her in his trap, confronting her with the impact of her films on countless lives, she brushes him off: “Life is too short for regrets.”

“First Rule of the Interrogation: Don’t Joke About the Jews”

The soldier, modeled on Budd Schulberg, the writer who actually arrested and interrogated Riefenstahl, reveals himself as Jewish. The stubborn anti-Semite, who clearly has not learned anything, ridicules him. He then warns her, “First rule of the interrogation: Don’t joke about the Jews.”

In an almost Pavlovian fashion, Riefenstahl declares that she has nothing against anyone, “as far as I’m concerned, people are all the same.” Yet, she uses euphemisms to avoid the term “Jews.”  The interrogator has to beat it out of her before, referencing Hitler, she admits to prejudices against, “people unlike himself.” The U.S. soldier spells it out for her, “Jews you mean.”

Apparently unaware of the presence of a significant Jewish community in Los Angeles, Hitler’s filmmaker dreams of making movies in Hollywood-the height of chutzpah. The soldier reacts sardonically, “I’m not sure the Jews on Rodeo Drive have gotten past it yet.”  The audience roared with delight.

A Thorny Issue

My friend and guest, Stefanie Seltzer, president of the World Federation of Jewish Child Survivors of the Holocaust (WFJCSH), did not laugh.  The Riefenstahl play had brought back many painful memories of her childhood in occupied Poland.  

Going by the derisive laughter in the theater, often directed at Leni, I wasn’t sure whether the audience went home feeling enlightened or merely entertained by schadenfreude, whether they saw Riefenstahl as the “Inglorious Bitch” akin to Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds-or whether they went home in self-reflection.

“We Are the Same, You and I”

Playing Leni, the drama about the power-hungry filmmaker willing to walk over bodies, encourages the American audience to discover not only some of the inner workings of a Third Reich mind, but also our own: “You’re doing this for you!  We are the same you and I,” asserts Riefenstahl.

Through the American soldier and the German filmmaker, we may recognize our own ambiguities in the pursuit of happiness.  As Robson puts it, Riefenstahl was “an opportunist extraordinaire. Life is full of people willing to do anything to become famous. Where does the conscience go in all that?”

Entering the theater, Riefenstahl’s The Triumph of the Will fills the screen.  Leaving the theater, where we had just witnessed the unbearable Riefenstahl, did we look critically at the triumph of the will-within ourselves?


HENRIK EGER, Professor of English and Communication, DCCC, Media, PA.  Ph.D. University of Illinois at Chicago (1991). Member: Board of Directors, Theatre Ariel, the Jewish theatre of Philadelphia.  Philadelphia correspondent of All About Jewish Theatre (AAJT) and YouTube producer-writer: AAJT–The World’s Largest Secular Synagogue and Open University http://www.youtube.com/watch?v… Playwright of Jewish life and people, seen from a German perspective. For a detailed description, click here: http://www.pdc1.org/memberprof…

CONTACT: [email protected], http://www.henrikeger.com