I listened all through the day for coverage of Thursday’s United States Holocaust Remembrance Day, but heard not a peep after watching the official ceremony at the U.S. Capitol broadcast online. It’s starting to feel like people pay more attention to tornado warnings than alerts to rising storms of a more sinister nature.
Seems we’re living a startling disconnect these days from events preceding the Holocaust, overlooking glaring similarities popping up all around us in contemporary culture. Shirley Lauro’s “All Through the Night,” being performed by Theater Works in Peoria through May 13, makes it clear that the Holocaust didn’t happen overnight.
The play imagines life for several German women, none of them Jewish, as events surrounding the rise, rule and ruin of the Third Reich take place. They’re in high school, a time when feeling like the “other” is already plenty painful, when hatred of the different escalates to demonic proportions.
Imagine Nazi Germany as the backdrop for every major milestone in your young adult life. Dating. Career. Marriage. Children. Caring for aging parents. Imagine loving someone your government wants to exterminate. Or losing a disabled child to a state bent on brutal experimentation.
“All Through the Night” is a brilliant bit of playwriting that elicits genuine empathy rather than settling for mere sentimentality. And the Theater Works production, an Arizona premiere directed by Richard Powers Hardt, is beautifully done. You’ll feel, while watching it, like you’re right there alongside these women. And you’ll leave with a greater sense of the insidious nature of evil.
It’s easy to assume that we’d never allow such horrors to take place if set into similar circumstances. “All Through the Night” makes clear the complexity of each woman’s challenges and choices, giving pause to playgoers who’ve perhaps lost touch with their own moral compass. Anyone mature enough to see the film “Bully” should see this play as well. Hitler was a bully surrounded by bystanders.
Coming up: School editions of mature content musicals, Zooming in on “Zero,” The New York Children’s Theater Festival