The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings





Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants









Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
By David Avery

When a leader allows himself to break the rules of humanity, it is the duty of every citizen to break the leader's rules ---Franz Jagerstatter

Michael Rudko and Gareth Saxe in
Michael Rudko and Gareth Saxe in iWitness
iWitness by Joshua Sobol as staged at the Mark Taper Forum is a play with a point, and it keeps making it over and over again. This serves as both its highest and lowest marks. It is a play that is political, both in content and in context. That it was written to serve as counterpoint for a completely different struggle only adds to its message. Whether it does it job well is open for debate.

The play is a dramatic account of the true story of Franz Jagerstatter, who in 1943 refused to join the German army and was executed for it. He felt it was immoral and against the teachings of the Catholic Church to participate in the evils of the Nazi state, and demonstrated his position by refusing to wear the Nazi uniform. Most of the drama is devoted to various characters attempting to talk Jagerstatter out of his decision, and flashbacks to earlier, happier times.

This is a well put together production. Neil Patel's set is stark and grey (with a large backdrop that is used as a film screen) that both suggests Jagerstatter's damp cell and allows for quick set shifts when the action moves into the past. Gareth Saxe's Jagerstatter possesses a quality of saintliness that is convincing. The cast members work well together, and there is both emotional and dramatic tension as they attempt to dissuade Jagerstatter from his chosen path.

What's missing is a central core that would allow the audience to really care about the Jagerstatter instead of seeing him simply a saint that is standing up to temptation. Again and again. And yet again the main character is challenged in the same way and gives the same response.

Some other missteps include a scene in which Jagerstatter seems to rap his lines. There's also the unsubtle title motif. The original title, Eye Witness entails a much subtler double-entendre without trying to take it into the realm of cyberspace.

The confrontation between Jagerstatter and Fr. Jochmann (Michael Rudko) represents the evening's high point. Their debate on the true meaning of piety holds some of the core struggle that should infuse the rest of the play. All of the arguments that Jochmann puts forth are material (of "Caeser" so to speak) and reflect a desire to not rock the boat. When Jagerstatter talks of how he was the sole vote in his village against Austria's being annexed by Germany, Jochmann asks "Who are you to decide what is the wrong direction?" Later Jochmann's only reply to Jagerstatters claims of death camps is "What you call facts are nothing more than a story!" Both statements are ironic in historical hindsight, as well as in the context of current global politics.

As in some of the best of plays about morality and society (George Bernard Shaw comes to mind), Sobol's own voice is barely contained behind his characters. And while using the Nazi's as the backdrop for all that is evil in the world is a bit cheap, it makes a lot more dramatic sense when you know that this play was not written for the United States, but for Israelis currently engaged in a struggle with most of the Arab world. Sobol has spoken in support of Israeli pilots who refuse to bomb targets in Palestine and the territories.

iWitness is going to speak to any government's demand for unquestioned loyalty. Franz Jagerstatter's story is an inspiring and moving one, but it might be better if the message wasn't so shrilly spoken and more subtly dramatized

Playwright: Joshua Sobol
Director: Barry Edelstein
Adapted by Barry Edelstein from an English language version by Joshua Sobol

Cast: JB Blanc (General Mussof, Sgt. Bastian), Christina Burdette (Daughter), Seamus Dever (Hans, Warden), Katrina Lenk (Margaret), Rebecca Lowman (Franca), Joan McMurtrey (Vice-Admiral Arps, Dr. Raps), James Joseph O'Neil (Martin, Feldman), Michael Rudko (Schreiber, Fr. Jochmann), Gareth Saxe (Franz Jagerstatter)
Scenic Design: Neil Patel
Costume Design: Robert Blackman
Lighting Design: Russel Champa
Sound Design: Jon Gottleib
Running time: approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes, with no intermission
The Mark Taper Forum
135 North Grand Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90012
From 3/30/06 to 5/21/06
Tickets: Weekdays & Sun eves $42, Fri eves, Sat & Sun mats $50, Sat eves $55
Times: Tue - Sun @ 8pm, Sun matinee @ 2:30pm

Reviewed by David Avery based on 4/14/06 performance
Playbill Broadway Year Book
The new annual to dress up every Broadway lover's coffee table

broadway musicals: the 101 greatest shows of all time
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

At This Theater Cover
At This Theater

Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide

Ridiculous! The Theatrical Life and Times of Charles Ludlam
Ridiculous!The Theatrical Life & Times of Charles Ludlam

metaphors dictionary cover
>6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by our editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.

The Broadway Theatre Archive


©Copyright 2006, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from