Did the Holocaust really happen? Does one have a legal right to deny it?
Are there historical revisionists who want the whole incident to fade away or be relegated to a mere fairy tale … and why?
These are some of the questions that ran through playwright Peter Sagal’s mind when he wrote the riveting legal drama about one of the most egregious times in human history. His two-act stage play, “Denial,” casts an introspective lens into the atrocity that was the Holocaust, and as Sagal says, “explores the conflict between justice and morality.”
Ubiquitous in the entertainment field from NPR host and comedian, to actor, director, and prolific writer, Sagal chose the subject matter for his play by way of a loose association with a real life Holocaust denier who penned, “The Hoax of the 20th Century” in 1973.
Sagal’s fictionalized version is set in a legal office in California. The year is 1990 when Bernard Cooper (played by Mark Ayers) is a college professor of engineering whose personal effects are confiscated by the FBI. When brought in for prosecution, Jewish lawyer Abigail Gersten (played by Margo Weishar), a specialist in the 1st amendment, is requested by the ACLU to defend Cooper—an anti-Semite who alleges his free-speech rights have been usurped by an overbearing government when he says the Holocaust was a perpetrated fiction designed by Jews to malign der Führer (German autocrats). Now he’s being sued for inciting a riot.
Adding to the drama is young Jewish zealot Adam Ryberg (played by Sean Collins) who is the prosecuting attorney and questions Abigail’s moral compass for defending the indefensible whom she defends as much as detests. Humorous elements are lent by Stefanie (played by Carlene Lawson), the secretary whose presence adds even another layer of prejudice to the whole fiasco.
“It’s not an easy show… emotions are raw,” says Director Arnie Finkel. “But it’s a show with a message that everyone should hear.”
Rounding out the cast are two holocaust survivors, Noah (played by Julian Bonner) and Nathan (played by Dan Gudema).
While the story line is dramatic and speaks to man’s inhumanity to man, there are some lighter moments within the play, including music. The set is an interesting layout shaped in a labyrinth as opposed to the traditional straight line and is produced by Cathy Carroll and Ro Carpenter.
The compelling plot takes some stunning twists and will leave the audience in rapt attention while it highlights the human condition in all of its facets—morality and legality among them. In understanding how the world works, it’s important to focus on how to change the flaws in man’s corruptible human nature that would conjure such prejudice and injustice. First, it must be accounted for and recognized for what it is.
“There’s no answer to holocaust deniers,” Finkel says. “Hopefully, it will make us think.”
If you go:Playcrafters presents
“Denial”at the Barn2011 Store Road at Skippack Pike
Skippack, PA June 1, 2, 3, 9, 10, 15, 16, 17 @ 8 p.m.
June 11 @ 3 p.m. Info: www.playcrafters.org
Phone: 610-584-4005Tickets: $17.