Author: Kate Fodor
At: Theater Wit, 1229 W. Belmont Ave. Tickets: ShatteredGlobe.org, or 773-975-8150; $15-39. Runs through: May 25
In Shattered Globe's Hannah and Martin, author Kate Fodor and director Louis Contey invite audiences to look back on an era rife with questions we are no closer to answering, almost a century later. What level of involvement makes you complicit in an atrocity? If you escape punishment, what should your consequences be in the court of public opinion? Should those consequences lighten for the people we love?
At its heart, Hannah and Martin plays with perspective in a way that instills both frustration and resignation in the audience. This production explores the ideals we want our societies to uphold, and all the circumstances that make those ideals inconvenient or detrimental to us. The problem manifests when Hannah can't see the actions of her mentor as reprehensible, but has no problem condemning another person ( Drew Schad as Baldur von Schirach ) for a nearly identical crime. Hannah must rule out every other possibility before she'll see Martin as dangerous.
Hannah Arendt ( Christina Gorman ) is a Jewish philosophy scholar who is certain that her mentor and sometimes lover Martin Heidegger ( Lawrence Grimm ) is a genius of the highest order. In her eyes, he is eloquent, passionate, and his theories are sound. So, when Heidegger is tapped by Nazi officials to help develop their ideology, Hannah doesn't immediately condemn him, she just wants to know why. As others, like her later mentor Karl Jaspers ( Doug McDade ), her husband Gunther ( Steve Peebles ) and her own devoted student Alice ( Jazzma Pryor ) work to distance themselves from Heidegger, Hannah gives him the benefit of the doubt. To find insidiousness in his alliances now would mean having to examine their past with suspicion, too, and Hannah can't bring herself to do that.
What works for Director Louis Contey in bringing Hannah and Martin to life, is a stage picture in constant motion. Nick Mozak's intricate set, a traverse stage sandwiched by the audience, allows the actors to play with angles like a billiards game. I only wish the staging were even more intimate, building on the sense of inescapability the script traffics in so successfully. Every character shares one trait; no one can leave an argument unfinished. They'll do whatever it takes to hammer their point home.
Out of a stellar cast, two performers who lit up the stage were Steve Peebles as Hannah's irreverent and slightly audacious husband, Gunther, and Jazzma Pryor as her student with a much sturdier backbone, Alice. This production's heavy-hitters are undoubtedly Christina Gorman as Hannah Arendt and Lawrence Grimm as Martin Heidegger. They are artfully uncomfortable to watch. They both chase blindly after things that will bring them acclaim, while avoiding the personal revelations that will bring them healing.