Born Guilty | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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The longer it runs, the more relevant A Red Orchid Theatre's Born Guilty gets. Ari Roth's stage adaptation of Peter Sichrovsky's book traces a Jewish journalist's quest for interviews with adult children of Nazis--a quest that exposes layers of emotionally crippling denial within the guilt-ridden families and their society. Since the show's opening last March, Germany's supreme court has ruled that free-speech laws don't protect claims that the Holocaust never took place; a Holocaust-doubting ad stirred up furious debate around the United States when it ran in college newspapers; a Japanese book proclaiming the virtues of Hitler's political strategy provoked international controversy; and new investigations have exposed German war criminals around the globe even as the decline of communism has unleashed a wave of neo-Nazi activity. Fifty years after the Third Reich's fall, the Nazi ethos continues to haunt a world floundering in economic instability and moral incoherence; this production potently depicts the way "good" people can abet fascism in the public arena by choosing not to confront it at home. Restaged and recast by director Shira Piven for an extended run in a new space, Born Guilty boasts a fine young ensemble, subtly effective sound design by Jef Bek, and Robert G. Smith's ominous, Anselm Kiefer-influenced background painting of wheat stalks and white graffiti on a scorched black field--a striking visual metaphor for Hitler's lingering legacy. At the Famous Door Theatre Company, Jane Addams Center Hull House, 3212 N. Broadway, 404-8283. Through July 17: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 PM; Sundays, 2 PM. $12.50-$16.50.

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