Over the last week, I’ve written about several plays we saw on our recent trip to New York City. Read my review of “Summer, 1976” here, my thoughts about “Good Night, Oscar” here, and what I thought of “Primary Trust” here.
Here’s the final one in this series, my review of “Leopoldstadt,” which just won Tom Stoppard his fifth Tony Award for Best Play.
The story follows the lives of an extended family and friends in a wealthy Jewish community in Vienna, Austria, from 1899 to 1955. Along the way, it jumps ahead in time to update us on them in 1924, 1938, and 1955. Of course, many of those years coincided with two world wars and the rise and horrors of Nazism. Stoppard doesn’t shy away from showing its effect on his characters, no doubt because his own family history includes all four grandparents being murdered by Nazis in concentration camps.
“Leopoldstadt” has a huge cast, with thirty-eight characters. At first, I found the number of people onstage daunting, but Stoppard and director Patrick Marber quickly break them down into smaller groups with their own stories to tell. As the play proceeds, we learn about triumphs, travails, marriages, Zionism, mathematics, childhood joys, and lives cut short — but mostly about the impact anti-Semitism had on all of them.
There’s nothing feel-good about “Leopoldstadt.” We emerged from the theater grateful to have seen it, but with an emptiness in our hearts — not merely because of what we had seen, but in recognition of how easily such atrocities are happenning again amid the rise of Christian white supremacist nationalism both here and abroad.
I give “Leopoldstadt” an 8.5 out of 10.