The Good German
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Ed Smith

“You’re logical but that doesn’t make you right,” is a line from the beginning of Marin Theatre’s west coast premiere of The Good German. It sets up an almost Zen like approach to the interactions of four characters caught up in Hitler’s Germany during WWII. “Zen wishes to storm this citadel of topsy-turvydom and to show that we live psychologically or biologically and not logically,” writes D.T, Suzuki in his book An Introduction to Zen Buddhism.

But in this topsy-turvy world of Hitler’s Germany, Karl (Warren David Keith) clings to logic as a last bastion of civilization in a world gone mad. Yet when his wife Gretel (Anne Darragh) asks him to protect a Jew (Brian Herndon) whose wife and children have been murdered by the Nazis, he is reluctant, but out of love for her and respect for her inherent goodness he acquiesces, brooding on the lack of goodness in himself: “It’s no trouble for my wife; she is good. For me it’s a labor.”

It’s this labor that sets up the dramatic action of this thought-provoking play written by David Wiltse, and it could just as easily be applied to today’s world. “The Good German is clearly not a traditional holocaust story,” said Jasson Minadakis, Marin Theatre’s artistic director. “This kind of portrayal personalizes the internal struggles that individuals had to face head-on every day during World War II, as the government challenged the morality of a country. It’s not unlike the challenges that every nation, including our own, faces with decisions that run counter to the beliefs of its citizens.”

When Siemi (Darren Bridgett), a member of the Nazi party and Karl’s friend says: “We love to hate. It feels good to hate. That’s Hitler’s genius,” the audience cringes but also recognizes the truth to this statement about all human nature. “The Zen method of discipline generally consists in putting one in a dilemma, out of which one must continue to escape, not through logic indeed, but through a mind of higher order,” writes Suzuki. When the Nazis kill Karl’s wife, all three male characters are put in a dilemma that no logic can save them from. Are any of their minds moved to a higher order? The answer to that question is left to the audience, and we can’t help but wonder if we could pass that test in today’s world.

For tickets or more information about this powerful drama call (415) 388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org.

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