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Monday, March 18, 2013

Guilt and Responsibility

Guilt and Responsibility

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Arthur Goldman is a successful Manhattan industrialist, surrounded by his millions of dollars and a few loyal employees. But lurking in the shadows are also ghosts of his past, real and otherwise. Goldman is a Holocaust survivor, and he is increasingly paranoid about the past catching up with him.

Based on the 1967 novel by Robert Shaw—which became a successful stage play in 1968, as well as a critically acclaimed film in 1975—Off the Wall Theatre’s production of The Man in the Glass Booth raises more questions than it answers about guilt, responsibility and identity.

Accused by Israeli agents of being a Nazi war criminal, Goldman is kidnapped and put on trial, where he sits in a glass booth while survivors recount his atrocities. Yet this man behind the glass relishes the horrors, recounting them with spiteful details while hurling insults. Who is this man actually? Tormentor? Victim?

The play rests solely on the actor playing Goldman and in this production, it’s Off the Wall’s artistic director Dale Gutzman (who also directs the play). It’s a physical, knock-down-drag-out performance with Gutzman pouring every ounce of energy into the self-torture of this complicated man. He is, at times, fascinating and difficult to watch, given “the prison” he’s created for himself years after imprisonment.

Shaw’s surprise ending (no spoilers here) makes us all take a step back to consider the lasting effects of war and the living victims war claims, long after freedom has been attained. In The Man in the Glass Booth, physical survival is its own emotional death sentence, with madness a constant companion, while truth remains banished to the shadowy netherworld of what’s “real” and what’s “imagined.”

The Man in the Glass Booth runs through March 24, at Off the Wall Theatre, 127 E. Wells St. For more information, call 414-327-3552 or visit offthewalltheatre.com.