Arendt-Heidegger: A Love Story
Written by Douglas Lackey
Directed by Alexander Harrington
Review by Brenda Repland
Hannah Arendt (Alyssa Simon) a brilliant political theorist and philosophical thinker, studied under Dr. Martin Heidegger (Joris Stuyck) a celebrated German philosopher. She came to love him in spite of his determined support of Adolph Hitler.
Douglas Lackey writes that “Arendt connected with Heidegger physically, emotionally and intellectually. This is the story of a woman in love, no ordinary woman and no ordinary affair.”
Arendt and Heidegger pose many philosophical questions. As a Jew, Arendt has a very personal perspective on the dangers of Nazi anti-Semitism. She asks Heidegger, “Do men shut us out or do we shut ourselves out?”
Even for those of us who are familiar with the history, Heidegger’s unabashed anti-Semitism strikes like a blow. He is obsessed with the “Jew” as the enemy and deserving of all blame. He sees Jews not as Germans, but as something separate and counter to German adulation.
As war threatens in the thirties, Arendt foresees the looming danger which Heidegger discounts. His wife, Elfrida (Alexandra O’Daly) explains how Hitler got elected. “Germany needs a man who can get things done!”
Arendt asks “how could this happen in Germany with a man who can’t utter a coherent sentence? A man who lies . . . . about everything!” But Heidegger argues that “the Fuehrer (Hitler) is the only truth.”
When Heidegger shares his concerns about his job security with Elfride, she advises him to start writing on race theories “and make them German!”
After the war, Arendt will cover the trial of Adolph Eichmann. Her observations will attract sharp criticism and cause her to be called “a self-hating Jew.”
When she presses Heidegger to explain his support of Nazism, he dissembles and falls back on the idea that he was just doing what Germany expected of him, i.e. to support the country. But Arendt won’t accept this and makes clear that she will not tolerate self-delusion. She shames him.
This play is mesmerizing in its many now-familiar aspects to our current situation. The casting is perfect, making the story ever so plausible.
Food for thought: why are we seeing so many plays lately about the Nazi trauma in all its facets? Just think about it . . . .