Theater 2018-19: In three philosophical plays, Shattered Globe probes issues intimate, epic
Fifth in a series of season previews: Bizarre affair between a Jewish political theorist and Nazi sympathizer Heidegger will cap the year.
By Lawrence B. Johnson
It’s easy to pick five shows for a season, says Shattered Globe Theatre artistic director Sandy Shinner. But settling on just three plays, which is a full plate for this plucky little company: That, says Shinner, is tricky.
“As you approach the planning of a season, there’s so much you want to do,” she says. “First of all, you want to create opportunities for the members of your ensemble, including the younger members. That’s the fabulous thing about having an ensemble – we get to watch them rise to challenges and mature as artists.”
The trio of plays in view at Shattered Globe this season bears a collective stamp of philosophical discourse in dramatic form, notably with an adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” and Kate Fodor’s “Hannah and Martin,” which explores the bizarre liaison between the Jewish political thinker Hannah Arendt and the celebrated philosopher Martin Heidegger, who endorsed the Nazi movement in Germany.
Philosophy on a domestic level illuminates the season’s third play, Will Eno’s “The Realistic Jones,” about two neighboring couples who grapple with that thing so formidably obstructed by language: communication.
The season in brief:
- “Crime and Punishment” adapted for the stage by Chris Hannan from the novel by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (U.S. Premiere Sept. 9-Oct. 20 at Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont): Is it possible for a crime to be justified by a higher purpose? Raskolnikov, a disillusioned former law student who is all too familiar with the injustices of the world, decides it’s time to find out. Caught in a dangerous cat and mouse game of his own making, redemption seems hopelessly out of reach. In this new adaptation, Dostoyevsky’s intense psychological thriller features a cast of 11 as chorus and conscience.
“(Director) Lou Contey loves this play and has wanted to do it for a long time,” says Shinner. “It’s one of the first psychological novels, but also deeply political in a way that ties it reasonably to the circumstances of our own time: the only interest in the morality of action is the result it produces. But it isn’t entirely dark. While you may not think of ‘Crime and Punishment’ as funny, there’s humor in it.”
- “The Realistic Joneses” by Will Eno (Jan. 11-March 9, 2019, at Theater Wit): Bob and Jennifer Jones are drifting through their isolated suburban life until one fateful evening when they meet their new neighbors, John and Pony Jones. Soon, the couples find that they share much more than a last name. In this funny and intimate meditation on life, the four Joneses muddle through the strange and amazing moments of each day knowing that “talking with someone can make you feel better,” but fearing that actual communication may elude them in the end. The production is a joint endeavor by Shattered Globe and Theater Wit, where Shinner’s company presents all of its plays.
“‘The Realistic Joneses’ is perhaps the most realistic of Will Eno’s plays,” says Shinner. “It’s a heartbreak of a comedy, very moving and filled with extraordinary language that’s incredibly precise. It feels like people just sitting around in the backyard on a summer’s night, and the small talk that morphs into beautiful big ideas about life. It’s also about how we keep trying to communicate and how it doesn’t always work.”
- “Hannah and Martin” by Kate Fodor (April 11-May 25, 2019, at Theater Wit): Based on the tumultuous love affair between German-Jewish political theorist Hannah Arendt and her mentor, the celebrated German philosopher Martin Heidegger, this emotionally intense drama focuses on the crisis that erupts when Arendt discovers that her former teacher is using his brilliance and fame to help further the goals of the Nazi Party. “Hannah and Martin” explores the idea of thinking and its relation to passion, love, and politics.
“As Heidegger’s student, Hannah’s brilliance catches his eye, but she eventually must deal with the shocking realization that he is lending his support to the Nazi cause,” says Shinner. “She can’t grasp how Heidegger, knowing that she is Jewish, could sympathize with a philosophy rooted in anti-Semitism. The structure of the play has Hannah moving back and forth in time, between her student days and the stunning revelations of the Nuremberg trials after the war.”
More theater season previews
- Getting a real sense of home, Writers plans far-ranging season in new house
- TimeLine cues four dramas, collaborates with feminist venture Firebrand
- Court maps world premiere and last play in the Wilson cycle: ‘Radio Golf’
- Redtwist celebrates 15th year by raising monument in tiny space: ‘King Lear’