September 26th, 2004

Hannah and Martin

is a play by Kate Fodor, playing till Oct. 10 at Chicago's Timeline Theatre.

It's a play about 2 famous philosophers who were lovers - Hannah Arendt and Martin Heidegger.  She was his student and he was her not-so-happily married professor.  The central problem the play presents is what to do with Heidegger after WWII, since Heidegger had joined the Nazi party and had been involved in expelling all the Jews from a university.

Arendt, on the other hand, being Jewish by background, had fled to America.

After the war, he's not up on charges, but no one will hire him to teach, and no one will publish his work.  She, on the other hand, has become a success in New York.  Feeling quite conflicted, she decides to come back, with a plan of trying to rehabilitate his reputation a bit.

It's based on what really happened.  There is a great deal of philosophy discussed.  But personally I never got excited by the conflict.  It seemed like it could have been more dramatic than it was.

It has won many awards, and the acting was excellent.  If you are interested in either of the 2 philosophers, I think it will hold your attention.  The play tries hard to make Heidegger sympathetic, but I couldn't quite get there.  I suppose it doesn't help that I am so opposed to his philosophical positions. 

By the way, a very good, albeit brief, exposition of Heidegger's approach is to be found in Stephen Hicks' new book, Explaining Postmodernism.  Heidegger is apparently one of the people postmodernists most often refer to for philosophic support, which doesn't surprise me a bit.

Hannah Arendt, of course, is the author of the classic: Eichmann at Jerusalem.  I also enjoyed her Totalitarianism study, which now appears as the third section of The Origins of Totalitarianism

My final comment is that the play is sort of a "problem play", exploring a moral problem (should she help Heidegger) without settling on a clear answer.  I was really hoping the author would achieve some moral clarity on the issue, but I didn't feel that occurred.

Rhyme of the Day:

Moral clarity
Is a rarity.