We often call World War II “The Good War,” but Bernard Weinraub’s documentary drama reminds us of its less benevolent aspects. He tells the story of Peter Bergson, born Hillel Kook (Steven Schub), who devoted his life to attempting to rescue Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe. His efforts are continually thwarted by the American political establishment, as well as the Jewish establishment, led by Rabbi Stephen Wise (Morlan Higgins). In Weinraub’s eyes, the chief villain was Assistant Secretary of State Breckenridge Long (Brian Carpenter), who had jurisdiction over immigration and refugees. A patrician WASP and friend of FDR (James Harper), he loathed all foreigners, and Jews in particular. He blocked immigration by imperiled refugees, and when he couldn’t block them, he delayed them to death, or strangled them in red tape. Weinraub’s heroes include Bergson, his friend Merlin (William Dennis Hurley) and Ben Hecht and Henry Morgenthau (both strikingly played by Dennis Gersten). Ironically, though our government refused to aid European Jews, it did launch a mission to rescue the famous Lipizzaner Stallions. With such a fact-based drama, political complexities inevitably overshadow Bergson’s personal life, but they are fascinating in their own right. Deborah LaVine skillfully melds a fine cast into a gripping production on Travis Gale Lewis’s bleakly effective set.
Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: July 19. Continues through Sept. 14, 2008
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