Should punishment fit the crime? Is justice merely politics? The dilemma is brought forward at Beari Productions’ version of “Judgment at Nuremberg.” This intense drama runs for two more weekends at All Saints’ Church, 214-35 40th Avenue in Bayside.
Directed and produced by Debbie and Rene Bendana respectively, the 15 cast members carry a heavy theatrical responsibility. At times, outbursts from the defendants and prosecution send shockwaves of conscience across the stage. Other times, a sense of compassion and confusion fill the actors’ faces and voices. After all, crimes against humanity and the murder of millions cannot be easily explained away.
At Sunday afternoon’s performance, Kieran Larkin as Judge Dan Haywood offers a consistent and thoughtful portrayal. He represents the World War II Allies’ moral center. Greg Johnson as Captain Byers and the play’s narrator is no less moral but far more practical. The American prosecutor, Colonel Tad Parker, portrayed by Gregory Gordon, is a determined soldier, tough as nails. Tribunal judges Ives (Steve Morisi) and Norris (Tom Albano) will offer their own opinions. But are they voting for punishment or politics?
The Germans on trial are Third Reich judges who looked away while the Nazis committed indescribable atrocities. Community theatre A-lister Richard Weyhausen offers an agonizingly honest and tormented presentation as Ernst Janning, who refuses to pretend he was unaware of his countrymen’s brutality. His co-defendants, played by Cameron Hughes, Rene Bendana and Steve Stromberg, speak volumes with both their silence and patriotic fervor.
Defense attorney Oskar Rolfe is played with slick intensity by Erik Neilssen. He clashes with the prosecution, portraying allies like Winston Churchill as villains. Meanwhile, beautiful Frau Bertholt (Bonnie Sassower), who becomes friends with Chief Judge Haywood, is equally intense. She is a war widow who is conflicted in both her anger and hope for her defeated countrymen and the American occupiers.
German civilians, including Dr. Wickert (Nick DeCesare), Mrs. Halbestadt (Shana Aborn), Rudolph Peterson (Nelson Rocha) and Maria Wallner (Amy Rubinson), add to the dramatic tension by bearing their souls as brutalized victims or hiding their feelings behind their professional duties.
Still relevant in today’s world, “Judgment at Nuremberg” is far more than a morality play. It is a plunge into human nature that we cannot ignore. Call 718-736-1263 for tickets.
Queens stages will offer drama, comedy, music and more while autumn winds continue to blow. As always, save me a seat on the aisle.