There has been no shortage of drama concerning anti-semitism on New York stages in recent months. Tom Stoppard’s semi-autobiographical Leopoldstadt, won best play at last year’s Tony Awards. This season, Barry Manilow and Bruce Sussman’s story of a German-based vocal group facing oppression (Harmony) finally made its way to Broadway after years in the making. Josh Harmon’s Prayer for the French Republic, which traces five generations in Paris, was remounted on Broadway after a successful run off-Broadway in 2022. The latter two are still running.
Now through February 11th, Brooklyn Academy of Music is presenting Our Class, another entry into pieces about antisemitism. Written by Polish playwright Tadeusz Slobodzianek and adapted by Norman Allen, it tells the harrowing true story about a little-known incident that occurred in Jedwabne Poland in July 1941. Essentially, Christian/Gentile townspeople turned on their Jewish neighbors and murdered them in a pogrom.
Slobodzianek structures his three-hour drama through the lens of ten individuals: half of them Jewish, the other half gentile. Once friendly playmates in childhood, a cruel division splits them in adulthood. It’s a sobering and gripping tale and a reminder of our volatile humanity for one another.
Yet the piece, which is part of BAM’s Under the Radar Festival often feels cold and clinical. Perhaps it is due to the contemporary staging and direction by Igor Golyak—or possibly because of the running time, which could easily be trimmed.
Still, this fine cast tackles this beast of a play with gusto. Although it may not be one of the more engaging pieces on the subject to hit New York stages, it ultimately leaves audiences wanting to delve further into the facts of this horrific event.
Our Class is now playing at BAM Fisher (321 Ashland Place, Brooklyn) through February 11th. For tickets and information, click here.