Black Angel


Character: Simone Engel

Directed by: Gordon Davidson

Written by: Michael Cristofer

Produced by: Circle Repertory Company

Cast Members: Tom Aldredge, Jonathan Bolt, Evan A. Georges, Lou Liberatore, Robert LuPone, Burke Pearson, William Snovell, Josef Sommer, Randell Spence, Jimmie Ray Weeks

Venue: Circle Repertory Theatre

Production Dates: December 19, 1982 - January 9, 1983

Genre: Drama

Martin Engel, a former SS officer accused of overseeing the massacre of 247 Jews in a French village during World War II, has come to that very town following his release from prison, hoping to build a house and live out his days in peace and solitude. Although the war crimes authorities are satisfied that Engel has paid his debt to society, the local townspeople are not of the same mind, and Engel’s presence becomes a growing irritant. Through his conversations with the mayor, his only friend in the village, we learn that Engel is a thoughtful and intelligent man who served his country out of duty rather than desire, and who gave orders to keep peace among the villagers, not to slaughter them. But the massacre did happen, and Engel cannot absolve himself from guilt by association. In the play’s chilling climax, he offers no resistance as the townspeople close in for his execution — raising questions not only of guilt and expiation, but also whether such punishment, with its disquieting reflection of the cancerous hatred unleashed by the Nazis, might not hurt the hangmen as well as the victim.

Reviews

For variety’s sake, Mr. Cristofer also provides dreamlike flashbacks that introduce us to Engel’s wife (Mary McDonnell), but she, too, remains a largely shadowy, bloodless figure. Speaking of her relationship with her husband, she says, “The time is relentless; the distance is final; and finally there’s nothing.” To which one wants to reply, “How’s that again?”Frank Rich

Out of very little, McDonnell created two stunning moments: a shockingly raw cry of anguish when she realized that her husband would never forgive himself for his past deeds, and a quiet composure that made the play’s final monologue – which ends “With love the chance of survival is very slight; with hate you can go on forever” – simply devastating.Don Shewey

Script developed by Never Enough Design