Currently playing at the Burning Coal Theatre Company is Good, the WWII-era period play which follows an unlikely Nazi leader from writing novels all the way to supervising Auschwitz.
Good, written by C.P. Taylor, tells the story of how a regular man, John Halder, a literature professor, becomes one of the high-ups in the Nazi party. The change is gradual, and by the end, it is shocking to see how far from his former life Halder has strayed, both personally and professionally. It is a testament to the Nazi party's power to manipulate people and abuse their senses of logic and reason. Despite Halder's reasonable assertion that hating Jews is impractical, and his belief that it would be unproductive to act upon it, he finds himself tangled up in the leadership of concentration camps by the end. Though his work with the party started with the idea of "mercy" deaths for those whose quality of life is minimal, it gets far more complex from there. For example, through his work with the mentally infirm, he may have inadvertently created the idea that gas chambers should resemble shower houses.
An interesting element of Good is that its main character has delusions of musical bands which appear to him throughout the story, and sharpen audience's the realization that Halder's connection with reality may not be so firm. The music punctuates the play, but does not dominate it - although occasionally the singing steps on a few of the spoken lines. Overall, the music adds a level of intrigue to the piece.
The ten-person cast is well-rounded, and Steven Roten does a great job at the helm of this production as John Halder. His pacing is excellent and he understands the character's flaws and merits, displaying them with truth and understanding. He carries the play from scene to scene, and manages to not run out of steam. Also achieving excellence is Rob Jenkins as Maurice, Halder's Jewish best friend, and the only Jewish character in the play. Though his character is in conflict with himself and with Halder, Jenkins brings a sense of what life was like for the persecuted - those who didn't want to leave their homes, but were trying to avoid the Nazis.
The set is designed in a geometric shape to allow for levels and different spaces, as it sometimes seems as if there are multiple scenes occurring at once. The set, designed by ED Intemann, while simple, is a good use of the small space at Burning Coal, and makes the space feel bigger. The lighting design, also by Intemann, is what really shows the change in scenes and the shift in time and space. These elements come together under the direction of Ian Finley. Finley seems to have a firm handle on the piece and the characters, and it shows.
Good runs through February 17. For tickets and more information, visit www.burningcoal.org or call 919-834-4001.
Photo credit: The Right Image Photography