The concept of reparations for historical genocides and atrocities has been long debated, but Israel Horovitz dramatizes such a proposal in Lebensraum his powerful play about a present-day German chancellor asking 6 million Jews to “please come home” to Germany and live there as citizens with “full benefits.”
Director Don K. Williams and the stellar cast of three (Michael Keith Allen, Augustine Hargrave and Andria Kozica), who play more than 60 characters, masterfully bring Horovitz's text (which ran Off-Broadway in 1997) to life, finding the joy, pain, regret, sorrow and humanity in such a monumental proposal.
Allen (doubling as set designer) creates an intentionally “cluttered” wooden backdrop festooned with numerous props and costume pieces, a clever choice that imbues the piece with historicity (and the messiness that comes with it) and facilitates the quick scenic and costume changes. The chameleonic actors admirably switch characters and moods in an instant, ramping up emotionally and fully investing in even the shortest scenes, a tribute to their versatility and talent.
And in Jews returning to Germany and “taking” German jobs, there are even echoes of the current immigration debate in this country, further enhancing the show's impact. A timely, haunting and amazingly honest examination of how we deal with the sins of our past, this theatrical gem is not to be missed.
Harold Clurman Laboratory Theater Company at the Art of Acting Studio, 1019 N. Orange Drive, W. Hlywd.; Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; thru March 1. (323) 601-5310. www.artofactingstudio.com.