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One man show examines slippery ideas of evil
A broke German who turned to the Nazis for work during the Great Depression and two lovers struggling to pay the bills for their East Coast farm.
The stories may be worlds apart, but after 75 minutes, local thespian and writer Daniel Thau-Eleff promises all will make sense.
On Thurs., Oct. 18 the Fort Rouge resident will open his new one-man comedy Good People Bad Things at the Rudolf Rocker Centre in the Exchange District.
"People really want to believe that there are (only) good people and bad people, which kind of lets us off the hook," Thau-Eleff said during a recent rehearsal.
"The question is how do bad things happen? How do people get involved in doing bad things?"
Through interwoven storylines and characters, Thau-Eleff’s unnamed character recounts his travels volunteering on an East Coast farm and the couple who owns it, along with the mistreatment he witnesses in their relationship as the farm buckles under debt.
In between, he recounts his readings of Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, which traces the life of Adolf Eichmann, who joined the Nazis looking for work in 1932 and would later be tried and executed for his role in managing the logistics of the Holocaust.
"How these things connect is partly the question being sent out to the audience," Thau-Eleff said.
"Someone like Eichmann… this was a businessman, going to work, doing his job.
"The Israeli psychiatrists that evaluated him before his trial found him quite normal, even a man with very positive ideas.
"We can’t dismiss him as a monster," he continued.
Despite his Jewish upbringing and the heavy emphasis placed on the Holocaust in his schooling, Thau-Eleff said he was illuminated by reading Arendt’s book.
"Somehow I hadn’t seen things from the point of view of the perpetrators of the Holocaust until I read this book," he said.
"If we say never again, which has a particular meaning in the Jewish community, then getting inside the ordinary people who helped perpetrate the Holocaust seems to be the most important piece of the puzzle."
Director Chris Gerrard-Pinker, who has spent 35 years working in Canadian theatre from Toronto to Vancouver, is again working with Thau-Eleff to sew together the story’s themes.
"Creating a one man show is probably the scariest thing to do in theatre," said Gerrard-Pinker, who lives in Wolseley, noting one-man productions have become more popular over the last 15 years largely due to economics.
"It’s very tough, trying to sew it together, to make it resonate back and forth."
Good People Bad Things will be the pair’s fourth collaboration over the last nine years.
Gerrard-Pinker was drawn to Thau-Eleff for his earnestness and drive to immerse himself in the stage.
"He was a young thespian who wanted to make something," Gerrard-Pinker said.
"It was his desire and drive to do that, his want to do that, that attracted me (to work with him)."
Good People Bad Things opens Thurs., Oct. 18 and runs until Oct. 28 at the Rudolf Rocker Centre on the third floor at 91 Albert St.
Shows begin at 8 p.m. nightly. Saturday matinees will run at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $18 or $13 for students and seniors.
For more, visit movingtargettheatre.com.
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