Monday, March 28, 2011

Lent Day 17: "It could never happen here!"

"Are you in or out?" they asked the pastor. "Will you help us spy on the country and assassinate the leader, if necessary?"

The gripping story of ethical dilemmas, civil disobedience, conscience, and history kept us on the edge of our seats on Saturday night,  at Taproot Theatre's "The Beams are Creaking," the story of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. If you see one production this year, see this one.

A great story, it was entertaining, thought-provoking, and philosophically challenging. I recommend it for teens and older. (Take your kids if you want a lot to talk about on the way home! They'll understand history as more than dry facts.)

Our heritage is German so we've heard various viewpoints on WWII from relatives and non-German friends. The actors portrayed the chaos and uncertainty of ordinary people and academics who were swept up in new jobs, watched a "great" leader with a plan to boost and enlarge his country, and had no access to media outside of the official press. In my little review book, I kept writing, "Convincing! Convincing," (acting, story line, pace, music, transitions). The only thing that made me blink: I've never seen a German old-timer in a three-piece suit that wasn't made of one fabric, never mind a plaid jacket.

Douglas Anderson's award-winning script is superb! and kept us riveted. Matt Shimkus brought Bonhoeffer to life as pastor, thoughtful ethicist, romantic fiance, pianist, scholar, smoker... who knew? We met an ordinary man wracked by moral dilemmas, led by his faith in uncertain times. The accents resembled our immigrant acquaintances, the set design was superbly minimal -- one change at intermission, just enough to support the cast, directed by Karen Lund. We easily followed multiple scenes blending on one stage. Piano music and radio broadcasts transitioned us through the story.

Most dreadful in the production for me was Bonhoeffer's mother's remark: "It can't happen here, I can't believe it. Not in Germany!" I know "good people" and well-intentioned German Christians who had no idea of what was being done to Jews and others, regardless of how they are painted by broad historical brushes. I kept thinking, what is to stop similar government control and targeting of a people group in highly regulated countries like the USA? Most people would go along, hoping for personal benefit or to keep from being harmed.

Jesus said, "Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won't collapse because it is built on bedrock. But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn't obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash." (Matthew 7:24-27)

When life's storms come -- and they will -- such advice, coupled by experiences and memories like this Taproot production, will remind us that a few things are important, VERY important, while all the rest is  temporal. Don't miss "The Beams are Creaking," running through April 23.

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