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 Editor's Picks

Shows Worth Seeing:

Hannah & Martin
By Kate Fodor
Manhattan Ensemble Theater
44 Mercer St.

Kate Fodor gets a lot dramatically right in this quasi-historical drama about the love affair between the renowned German philosopher Martin Heidegger and his brilliant student Hannah Arendt, who became a famous public intellectual in post-war America. The story of Heidegger becoming an outspoken Nazi while the Jewish Arendt has to flee Germany is subtly told, with scenes from different decades cleverly intercut to keep the action snappy and surprising. David Strathairn is excellent as the earnestly self-deluding Heidegger, as is George Morfogen as the lucid and compassionate Karl Jaspers, but the emotional heart of the evening is Melissa Friedman’s superb portrayal of Arendt. Friedman presents several different sides of this complex figure with seemingly effortless precision—her girlish intellectual zeal, her anomalous shyness within marriage, her professorial hauteur as a writerly eminence—and the fullness of this portrait ends up compensating for the big hole in the script. Well, almost. The hole is a too superficial exploration of why Arendt reversed herself after the war and pleaded for Heidegger’s reinstatement as a professor, apparently contravening her most cherished principles. It’s too simple to put this down to smoldering love. Truly plumbing the question required an immersion in both authors’ formidable writings that Fodor evidently wasn’t up to. In any case, it’s a high compliment to the actors, and to director Ron Russell, that in the end few seem to notice.

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