- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 8, 2002

The play "Born Guilty" asks hard questions and appropriately gives few answers. It is being staged by Theater J through July 14.
Ari Roth's play, which is based on the 1988 book by Austrian Jewish journalist Peter Sichrovsky, investigates the legacy the Nazis left for their children. Mr. Roth is the artistic director of Theater J, housed at the D.C. Jewish Community Center.
One of the first people the character Sichrovsky (Rich Foucheux) interviews in the play is Anna, played by Michelle Shupe. Anna reveals how it has been a struggle for her to know what to believe about her parents' past. She suspects her father was guilty of Nazi involvement, although he was acquitted of charges he faced.
She says it has been hard for her to differentiate between stories of gas chambers and those of Little Red Riding Hood. Consequently, she is confused about her role in the matter. She says, "Can wolves turn into sheep in the space of a generation? I'm not sure. I'm really not."
Later, Sichrovsky admits his reluctance to have a baby with his wife, Christine, who is played by Julie-Ann Elliott, because she is German. About 50 years earlier, during World War II, her father was a policeman. Sichrovsky wonders how his father-in-law was involved in the Holocaust. One wonders if Christine secretly has the same questions because she won't go to the Jewish cemetery in Vienna with her husband.
As the show progresses, the audience meets Rudolf, an openly homosexual character played by Jim Jorgensen. His parents were involved in the Third Reich. Rudolf recalls his parents eating cheesecake while Jews were gassed in the showers of the concentration camps. He acknowledges that his parents were upset that he is homosexual. He says they implied that he would have been killed during the Holocaust for his sexual orientation.
Another person Sichrovsky interviews is a doctor named Egon, played by Christopher Lane. Egon gives a public pro-choice speech about abortion, which leads into his explanation of how his father conducted medical experiments at Dachau, an infamous concentration camp in Germany. Egon says to his mistress, Sybille, played by Jennifer Mendenhall, "Perhaps we will be the new elite."
Of all the characters, Herman Schmidt, who is played by Irving Jacobs, is the most compelling. Schmidt, who bought a house formerly owned by Jews from the Nazis for a reduced price, lives with the guilt of doing so.
One downfall of the show is that eight persons play about 30 roles. The only actors who continuously play one character are Mr. Foucheux as Sichrovsky and Mr. Jacobs as Schmidt. Because the actors don't change clothing often throughout the performance, at times it is not immediately clear whether they are continuing a role that was presented already or introducing a new one. However, this confusion may represent the overall theme of the play, which shows that each child with Nazi parents faced similar battles. In essence, they all play the same role.

* * *
WHAT: "Born Guilty"
WHERE: Theater J at the D.C. Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th St. NW
WHEN: In repertory with "Peter & the Wolf" through July 14
TICKETS: $18
PHONE: 800/494-TIXS
MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS



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