Anti-holocaust discussions might not make for an appropriate conversation at a dinner party, but they most definitely produce excellent dramatic tension, as witnessed in Steven Levenson’s sharply written Off Broadway play, If I Forget.
Roundabout theater’s drama takes place in Tenleytown, a suburb of Washington DC described in the program as “a white, upper-middle class neighborhood” during the George W. Bush era (2000). The Fischer family, consisting of Michael (Jeremy Shamos), his wife, Ellen (Tasha Lawrence), Holly (Kate Walsh), her husband, Howard (Gary Wilmes), their son, Joey (Seth Steinberg), and the patriarch, Lou (Larry Bryggman).
Michael, a Jewish studies professor, has just published a book suggesting that the only thing that defines Jews is the holocaust and that somehow, we must forget it and move past it. Obviously, his views don’t rest well with the University and compromise his status of tenure.
Meanwhile, his mother has recently passed away and his father, who once owned a dollar store is in failing health. Questions between the siblings arise about what to do with the store.
Act II reveals even more dramatic plot twists, some of which border on the incredulous. Still, Levenson presents some provocative arguments and is wise in not providing lucid resolve. Sometimes, answers are neither right nor wrong, but rather a matter of generational differences. Much like Tevye in the classic musical, Fiddler on the Roof, who asks if he is able to turn his back on his daughter and his religion after his daughter weds outside of the faith, Lou is similarly plagued by ideological differences with his children. As a World War II veteran who witnessed the atrocities in a German concentration camp, he is adamant about the role history played in the annihilation of Jews.
Stevenson’s time frame adds even more substance to this already dense family drama, as it occurs shortly after the collapse of Israeli-Palestinian Peace accords.
Tony award winning director Daniel Sullivan directs this pristine cast with a careful hand and Derek McLane’s impressive bi-level set creates an ideal suburban vibe.
Levenson, who is currently represented on Broadway with the smash hit, Dear Evan Hansen is a gifted playwright who has scored another huge win with the Fischer family.
If I Forget runs through April 30th @ Roundabout’s Laura Pels Theater (West 46th between 6th and 7th). For tickets and more information, click here.