Theater Review: 'The Banality of Love'

While the play is essentially a docudrama, the production is in every way theatrically compelling.

Theater Review 88 (photo credit: )
Theater Review 88
(photo credit: )
The Banality of Love By Savyon Liebrecht Directed by Avishai Milstein Beit Lessin February 15 The banality of evil, explains Hannah Arendt (Liora Rivlin) to a belligerent Michael Ben-Shaked (Kobi Livne), lies in ordinary people perpetrating extraordinary evil as bland routine. The Banality of Love, then, must lie in extraordinary people during extraordinary times so ordinarily falling in love. Savyon Liebrecht's drama relates the 50-year connection between political theorist Arendt and influential 20th century philosopher Martin Heidegger (Oded Kotler) first as lovers, with Michal Shtamler as young Hannah, then as friends until her death in 1975. Arendt was Jewish, fled Hitler's Germany in 1933, settling eventually in New York. Heidegger joined the Nazi party, a move he never repudiated and for which he never apologized. Liebrecht seems to be asking how Arendt could continue to champion him after that, in part via her only fictional character, that of Ben-Shaked, who is played by the same person as young Hannah's best friend, Raphael Mendelsohn (Livne). While the play is essentially a docudrama, the production is in every way theatrically compelling, moving seamlessly between Hannah's sensible apartment in 1975 and her 1920-'30s German past set in a forest-scape on Eran Atzmon's efficiently lyrical set. Rivlin's understated, unostentatious Hannah shows more by revealing less, riveting viewers' attention. As young Hannah, Shtamler projects a lovely naiveté, steely courage and the seeds of who she will become. Kotler's Heidegger, while always honest, is sometimes a little flat, and the decision to make him a Hitler look-alike is a disaster. Livne does better as Mendelsohn than as Ben-Shaked; neither are quite believable, but then neither is the text.