Elegy
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★★½ "German philosopher Theodor Adorno's assertion that 'to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric' hangs over Ron Hirsen's earnest 2002 one-act 'Elegy,' now in its Chicago premiere in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht. The play, by the Elegy Project, is under Dennis Zacek's direction. he barbarism of the Final Solution has destroyed the impulse for poetry in Helmut, who spent his days prior to the war in the cafe owned by his pastry chef father, writing verses inspired by nature and wooing a young cellist, Hilde. Though separated, the two reunite and wed in New York after the war. But the memories that Helmut suppresses seem to haunt the dreams of their son, Jerry. When he finds a sole scrap of his father's poetry that his mother has preserved, he goes on a crusade to help his father rediscover his artistic voice. It's an affecting premise, to be sure. But both Hirsen's script and Zacek's staging suffer from a halting quality. The chronology jumps back and forth in time, revealing new details about Helmut's survival that should enlarge our understanding of his psychic paralysis. Yet the emotional arcs for the characters feel too cautious and stilted." -Kerry Reid