By Chuck Graham, TucsonStage.com
From left, David Alexander Johnston, Lucille Petty and Steve Wood play more than 40 characters in "Lebensraum."
Every day the news is filled with stories about the unintended consequences of some controversial act or other by one of the world's political leaders. Invisible Theater homes in on the possibilities of what might happen should today's chancellor of Germany announce his nation will welcome six million Jews to become citizens with full benefits.
The chancellor meant well, seeking to atone for the sins of Nazi Germany. But people are complicated, ultimately motivated more by their own survival. Playwright Israel Horovitz studies the possibilities up close and personal in “Lebensraum,” which premiered in 1996.
Susan Claassen directs a trio of the city's top talent – David Alexander Johnston, Lucille Petty and Steve Wood – playing more than 40 roles to dramatize how Horowitz felt such a sweeping decision would strip away the politeness of human nature to reveal its essence.
Many Germans thought it was a great idea, but others wondered what a sudden infusion of so many Jews would do to the economy? There won't be enough jobs for everyone. Wages will suffer. Jewish boys will marry Germany's fair maidens, and then what? Unemployed husbands will become a burden on society.
In Israel and other countries of the diaspora, re-settled Jews immediately suspected the German politicians were setting a trap, luring Jewish families back to their homeland to finish the genocide that began with the holocaust.
Claassen's actors put human faces on all these emotions, playing a pair of idealistic young lovers and their uncertain parents, a concentration camp survivor living out his last years in Australia, a German dock worker who watches friends lose their jobs to these new Germans.
Equally fascinating in this engaging 90-minute production is seeing the depth of unobtrusive theatrics that are employed to keep all the characters straight as their stories are told. A simple turn of a cap, a wisp of costume, hunched shoulders, broad shoulders, sometimes a pair of glasses, all were changes employed quickly to keep the action flowing.
There are also several masks designed by Maryann Trombino that become people, as well.
Ultimately we are left to wonder, how much does history shape us...or warp us? As historians record the results will they come down on the side of humanity surviving, or of Evil never being vanquished?
"Lebensraum,” translated as the “living space” Hitler used for his excuse to keep expanding Germany's borders, continues through Feb. 19 at Invisible Theatre, 1400 N. First Ave. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, 3 p.m. matinees Saturday and Sunday. All shows are sold out. An additional 7 p.m. performance has been added on Sunday, Feb. 19.
Rabbi Stephanie Aaron will take part in a post-performance discussion on Feb. 15.
All ticket are $32, rush tickets are half-price when available 30 minutes before curtain. For details and reservations, invisibletheatre.com or 882-9721.