Judgment at Nuremberg, which opened last night at the Longacre Theatre, is Abby Mann's stage adaptation of his teleplay and subsequent screenplay about war guilt, responsibility, and accountability; specifically the trials of several Nazi judges for their complicity in Nazi atrocities and the Holocaust. It's a serious subject with implications which are as timely today as they have been for the last 60 years. The National Actors Theatre, which commissioned this adaptation, is to be commended for a willingness to explore these subjects in a dramatic context.
Unfortunately, the production on offer is ponderous and disengaging, with what conflict there is being shortchanged in preference for a flashy, museum-like dioramic approach which ill serves the material. Judgment at Nuremberg is worth seeing, but only as one might view an educational documentary, not as good theatre.
George Grizzard leads a competent cast with a wry and accessible performance as Judge Haywood, whose search for the meaning of justice is the main focus of the play. Michael Hayden, as defense attorney Oscar Rolfe, provides fireworks when rage is expected, and, not surprisingly, a subtle and finely drawn passion which puts a human face on a defeated culture in the throws of self-justification. Maximilian Schell is quietly effective as Ernst Janning, the most important of the Nazi judges on trial.
Also of particular note for the quality of their performances in brief roles are Michael Mastro and Heather Randall, both of whom provide the all too human context of the victims of the trial that rages around them.
John Tillinger's direction is solid and efficient. James Noone's shiny scenery and Elaine J. McCarthy's projections at first impress but later annoy, as does Brian MacDevitt's lighting. Jess Goldstein's costumes are precise and effective. David Van Tieghem's original music and sound design are superb.
Judgment at Nuremberg by Abby Mann. Directed by John Tillinger. Cast: Maximilian Schell, George Grizzard, Michael Hayden, Robert Foxworth, Marthe Keller, Joseph Wiseman, Michael Mastro, Fred Burrell, Patricia Conolly, Jack Davidson, Peter Hermann, Jurian Hughes, Peter Francis James, Ty Jones, Susan Kellermann, Peter Kybart, Philip LeStrange, Peter Maloney, Kellie Overbey, Heather Randall, Reno Roop, Henry Strozier. Set design by James Noone. Costumes by Jess Goldstein. Lighting by Brian MacDevitt. Original music and sound by David Van Tieghem. Projections by Elaine J. McCarthy.
Theatre: Longacre Theatre, 220 West 48th Street between Broadway and 8th Avenue
Audience: May be inappropriate for children 10 and under. (Graphic descriptions of war time atrocities.) Children under 4 are not permitted in the theatre.
Running time: 2 hours 30 minutes, with one 15 minute intermission
Schedule: Tuesday through Saturday 8 PM, Wednesday and Saturday at 2 PM, Sunday at 3 PM
Ticket prices: Orchestra and Mezzanine (Rows A-E) $75, Mezzanine (Rows F-J) $55, Balcony $29.50 In addition, a $1.25 Facilities Fee will be added to the price of each ticket. The Facilities Fee is applicable at all points of sale.
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Tickets by phone: Tele-charge, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week - Inside the NY metro area (212) 239-6200, Outside the NY metro area (800) 545-2559
Tickets in person: Box Office hours Monday through Saturday 10 AM to 8 PM, Sunday Noon to 6 PM
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Tickets by snail mail: Judgment at Nuremberg, PO Box 998, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108-0998 Each order must include an additional $1.25 per ticket facilities fee.