By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
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Taylor also makes the nature of evil accessible to us by Anglicizing his characters' names and giving them very commonplace personalities. Halder's Gestapo friend Freddie (an affable Jim Beaver) is an especially "ordinary fascist" who has tired of the Party's pomp and discipline and who maintains a secret library of forbidden jazz records. Taylor's point is that fanaticism doesn't always have to be sustained by fanatics - or Wagner.
Halder's "true" nature is foreshadowed by his discovery that his hero Goethe refused to help Beethoven by loaning the dying composer a few marks. We soon realize uncomfortably that, if we were Halder, we might be tempted to gas his troublesome mother even without a Third Reich - just as we are tempted by far less lethal actions and compromises every day of our lives. The weakness in Taylor's play, however, is that we're never clearly convinced that Halder is Gestapo material; it's one thing to be a Nazi in a nation ruled by Nazis, but quite another to join, as Halder's uniform implies, the Death's Head Division - not exactly like belonging to the Auto Club. Halder, the Goethe expert, may be a weak individual, but he never displays the telltale resentments and ambitions that drove many of his countrymen to embrace Hitler after he came to power, let alone to punch a time clock at a concentration camp. It's simply too big a leap of faith for us to make - Halder is no Himmler. Nor does he reveal the slightest apprehension or doubt about going along with the Nazi tide, making his transformation seem less a conversion than a change of wardrobe.
Nor, for that matter, does he seem particularly eager to explore the latent homosexuality that he has expressly set up in the relationship between Halder and Maurice (who in some ways is the more interesting character), a development that would add dimension to Halder's actions. And while Good's Anglicized names help translate a German situation for modern British audiences, its language - saturated with the curse-adjective "bloody" - doesn't necessarily translate well into American.
Still, Taylor inventively complements the action with interludes of song and music - not interrupting the play with these moments, but making them integral to the narrative; the good professor, you see, hears imaginary bands perform in his head during stressful moments - cabaret tunes, drinking songs, tangos, snatches of symphonies. These are the melodies that lulled not only Germans of Halder's time, but Europeans as well. And so this music, from Alpine yodels to "Falling in Love Again," assumes not only a sinister aspect, but an international one as well. Good old Halder, and good old Europe - falling in love again with a song about blood and soil, a tune as old as murder.