Reading Between the Lines | Letters | Chicago Reader

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Reading Between the Lines

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Dear editor,

In regards to Tony Adler's recent review of the Artistic Home's production of The Madwoman of Chaillot [Section 2, October 28]--as a theatergoer, I found it misleading and, as a Jew, offensive. While Mr. Giraudoux may have held anti-Semitic beliefs, in no way are they expressed within the text of this play. One of the many reasons that I have been a continued supporter of the Artistic Home Theater is precisely because they choose material that is socially responsible and morally engaging. To imply that the Artistic Home Theater's production in any way condones or even tolerates anti-Semitism is pure slander and misrepresentation.

The purpose of a review is to inform readers as to the merits (or lack thereof) of a given production. If background information on the playwright or script helps to support this opinion, so be it. However, Mr. Adler's reference to Giraudoux's history of anti-Semitism does nothing to support his critique of this production, and therefore is irrelevant.

Mr. Adler's insipid inclusion of a gratuitous anti-Semitic quote by the playwright which has no bearing on The Madwoman of Chaillot, let alone on the Artistic Home's production, is deceptive and irresponsible. It is not only in bad taste, it is bad journalism.

It is no secret that, sadly, many of the most prolific and talented artists have expressed anti-Semitic views in their personal life. However, we have come to judge these artists' works on their own merits, and not by the views of their creators. By Mr. Adler's reasoning, he would pan the works of Tchaikovsky, T.S. Eliot, Dostoyevsky, Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Mark Twain, Roald Dahl, and Chaucer, to name a few.

One can find far too many actual instances of anti-Semitism. To manufacture a false instance does disservice to everyone--especially to your readership. As an active member of the Jewish community, I am appalled that you would let this poor excuse for a review go to print.

An Artistic Home Patron

Lakeview

Tony Adler replies:

Funny thing is, I honestly didn't know Giraudoux hated Jews when I went to see the Artistic Home production of The Madwoman of Chaillot. Two elements of the play made me suspect it, however. (1) His characterization of the villains as unproductive, string-pulling, moneygrubbing outsiders with neither pedigree nor appreciation for Parisian values. This echoes the classic attack on Jews as stateless "cosmopolitans." (2) The Madwoman's nostalgia for the Romanovs, who instigated pogroms and blood libels against Jews and were toppled--in the anti-Semitic view--by "Jewish" bolshevism.

Anti-Semitism is often communicated in code, and this stuff, taken together, struck me as a message. So I did a little research and turned up the information that went into my review. I can't agree then that Giraudoux's bigotry is "in no way...expressed within the text of this play." It was the text that brought his bigotry to my attention.

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