Student Life Correspondent
The University Players premiered their production of Kate Fodor’s Hannah and Martin at the Royal Theater October 3.
It is very difficult to write a play about philosophers. After all, you would think much of the drama would take place within the philosopher’s own mind. Philosophers pass time debating human nature, defining morality and questioning the very existence of God. When all the debating, defining and questioning is finished, all you are left with is words on a paper and more time to debate, define and question.
But the lives of some philosophers are more interesting than others. Hannah and Martin tells the story of a love affair between two German philosophers, Martin Heidegger and Hannah Arendt.
The play takes place in Germany before and after World War II. In the 1920’s, Martin Heidegger is a world renown philosopher and a Nazi sympathizer. He meets Hannah Arendt, a Jewish student at the university where he teaches, and the two have an affair.
Arendt is played masterfully by sophomore Ali Basaylga. Senior Conor Hurley gives a virtuoso performance as Martin Heidegger in what I believe is his best role yet. Gunther Stern is played by senior Tim Dodds in his debut role.
Sophomore Shaye Santos duels as Heidigger’s wife Elfride and a Nuremburg Judge. Sophomore Mitchell Demytrk plays Baldur von Schirach, former head of the Nazi Department of Education who stands trial for his war crimes. Junior Nick Gangone portrays Karl Jaspers, a Jewish professor and friend of both Arendt and Heidegger. Junior Julia Consiglio plays Alice, Arendt’s American assistant, while senior Emily Paparazzo plays Gertrud Jaspers, Karl Jaspers’ wife.
I particularly liked the play’s use of lighting to demonstrate changes in setting and time. Although at times I thought it was hard to follow exactly what was going on, the superb acting arrested my attention.
The second act moves faster than the first as both title characters come to terms with their involvement with the Nazis. Heidegger is plagued with regret for his outspoken support of Hitler.
There is one scene in particular that comes to mind. Shortly before the play’s end, Heidegger is seen hunched over his desk, hands covering his face as Wagner plays in the distance. They say Heidegger admired Hitler for, of all things, his hands. Heidegger’s hands, hands at which so many students gazed upon looking for answers, seemed themselves to be left looking for answers.
As the play winds down, Arendt symbolically washes her hands of the Nazis. She tried her best to be German and Jewish, but it was not possible.
If you missed the University Players production of Hannah and Martin, showtimes for next weekend are 8p.m. on Nov. 10 and 11, and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. on Nov. 12.