There is a moment of illumination in Kate Fodor's play, "Hannah and
Martin," which opened this week at the San Jose Rep.
In the climactic confrontation at the end, as Hannah Arendt demands to
know why her former teacher and lover, Martin Heidegger, supported Hitler,
the "Sein und Zeit" philosopher stammers and blunders through lies and
inanities, finally stops and falls silent. He then puts a record on
the phonograph, and as a heroic theme from the "Ring" finale fills the
theater, Heidegger shouts - with conviction and believability - "that's
how it was supposed to be!"
Further dialogue - about how the Wagner/Heidegger idea of purity, heroism,
transcending the ordinary, reaching for the "authentic" renders details
and consequences immaterial - doesn't add much to that moment. Whether
you're a monster, or the victim of monsters, you can agree on the the
nobility, the majesty of "pure Dasein," and that's how it's possible for
some to go from a concentration camp to Bayreuth, however incomprehensible
that may be. Wagner is "how it was supposed to be," not how it turned
out to be.
Otherwise, Fodor's play is merely a well-research docu-drama - in
an excellent production, with an outstanding cast, led by Stacy Ross'
brilliant Arendt (far more attractive than the original) - which doesn't
get to the heart of matter... or of the listener. It is rather similar
to Ronald Harwood's "Taking Sides," about Furtwangler's past, perhaps
stronger in its cohesiveness, but equally didactic, an illustrated
lecture, short on meaningful insights... except for the Wagner reference.
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