Written by and starring Tom Dugan
Directed by Jenny Sullivan
Broward Stage Door Theatre
Triumphant union of memoir and spy thriller
Where to begin praising Tom Dugan? Should it be as a researcher who spent countless hours honing just the right material? Should it be as a playwright who shaped this compelling material into a superb one-man show? Or should it be as an actor who mesmerized audiences with his brilliant portrayal of Wiesenthal, the legendary Nazi Hunter.
The play opens in 2003, on the day Wiesenthal is closing down his Vienna office after 58 years of sleuthing which brought down 1,100 Nazi war criminals (although he later laments that this was only 5% of the total). He is a man not filled with passion for revenge — but with passion for Justice. On this last day, as he packs up his memorabilia, he addresses the audience as if we were touring American students on a visit, taking time to inform us, although he had promised his wife to curtail his teaching.
Throughout, there is a brilliant weaving of material: his own personal history during the holocaust, tales of specific war criminals hunted and caught (in Austria, in Argentina, in Israel) and the historic background that enriches the information. Immediacy is provided by several phone calls where we watch him continue his search — interrupting the narrative detailing this, his final day before retirement.
The office will be packed up, the items shipped to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, but the man himself will not become a museum piece.
Dugan captures every nuance of his subject, the hesitant old man’s walk, his Austrian accent and inflections, his shaking hands, and his unending passion for justice.
Most important, this is not a somber, painful show. Dugan incorporates wit and humor as he changes pace to vary cleverly mounted dramatic moments.
The legendary Wiesenthal had an outstanding life and Dugan gives an outstanding performance, building suspense and maintaining audience interest throughout. There is not a slow or dull moment in what Dugan has aptly dubbed, “part memoir, part spy thriller.” Not to be missed!
Beverly Friend, Ph.D.
Member, American Theater Critics Assn.
Broward Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W Sample Rd Coral Springs, Fl 33065 www.stagedoortheatre.com. 954-344-7765 Tickets $38 (students $16), 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, through March 16.