The Stroop Report | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Stroop Report


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THE STROOP REPORT, Chicago Jewish Theatre, at Red Hen Productions. Preston Jones's schematic docudrama about SS commander Jurgen Stroop's destruction of the Warsaw ghetto--and the desperate resistance of Jews facing liquidation there--might make a useful presentation for high school students. Certainly Jones's two hours of short, illustrative scenes in which one- or two-dimensional characters discuss their predicaments have the same didactic simplicity as a textbook. But this broad overview of complex events sacrifices the kind of specific, intricate human narrative that can turn history into drama.

More problematic, Jones's polarized moral universe leaves no room for humanizing ambiguity. With the exception of a Jewish entrepreneur who grows rich from Nazi contracts, all the Jews in this ghetto are noble victims. Jones ignores the Jews who ratted out their neighbors or built well-appointed underground bunkers for themselves. Jones also turns Stroop and his underling Kraftmeier into Jew-hating machines--they only appear onstage to bait, harass, or shoot Jews. Once again we're asked to imagine Nazism as something that grew out of monsters utterly unlike us.

Directors Elayne and Brian LeTraunik exacerbate the play's academic feel in this generally stiff, awkward staging. And though some members of the uneven cast try to plumb their characters' depths, Jones's script really doesn't allow it.

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