Guest post by Demetra Pappas. As the Tony Award season for Broadway shows is on, an opportunity presents to attend new Off Broadway theatrical performances. The Last Cyclist, based upon a cabaret piece written in the Terezin Ghetto in 1944 by Karel Svenk, and “reconstructed and reimagined” by Naomi Patz uses outlawed bicyclists as a metaphor for the purging of Jews.
Directed by Edward Einhorn, and showing at the West End Theater (on the second floor of the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew at 263 West 86th Street), this could have been a good opportunity to consider ethnic and racial hatred. Here, this was a missed opportunity. While Off and Off-Off Broadway may not equate to the theatrical work under consideration of Broadway (and is not necessarily expected to), the person who attended this performance asked me if the group of players was amateur, because (my colleague said) they seemed to be laughing with each other at inappropriate times throughout. There may be nothing like an inside joke, but in the theater, there is a certain obligation to share such with the audience. The final few minutes, when the actors looked straight at the audience and spoke the names of the deceased, and left only one survivor in the end, was the only time that the actors took themselves seriously. Some audience members wondered if this was intended to be theater of the absurd, whereas others simply felt it to be absurd. This work, mounted in association with the Consulate General of the Czech Republic, New York and Czech Center, left audience members wanting a cast that took itself and its work – which had a strong anti-hate message – more earnestly, notwithstanding the humorously depicted metaphor.
Demetra M. Pappas teaches in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at St. Francis College, where she was named the 2011/2012 Student Government Association Faculty Member of the Year. Dr. Pappas holds a JD from Fordham University School of Law, an MSc in Criminal Justice Policy from the London School of Economics and a PhD from the LSE (from the Department of Law and the Department of Sociology), where her dissertation was entitled, The Politics of Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: A Comparative Case Study of Emerging Criminal Law and the Criminal Trials of Jack ‘Dr. Death’ Kevorkian. In 2012, Greenwood Press published her first book, entitled, The Euthanasia/Assisted Suicide Debate, one of Greenwood’s Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America, which has been nominated for the 2013 British Society of Criminology Book Prize.