The Germans were the first to perform Savyon Liebrecht’s The Banality of Love. Only after it was performed in Bonn’s and Dortmund’s municipal theatres in 2008, was it performed at Beit Lessin in Tel Aviv in January 2009.
The play’s title is a paraphrase on ‘the banality of evil’ coined by Hannah Arendt in connection with the trial of Adolf Eichmann. Arendt reported on the trial for the New Yorker, and her reports were collected in the book, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Liebrecht based her play on the impossible love affair of the then 38-year-old German philosopher (who later became a Nazi), Martin Heidegger, married and father of two, and his student, Hannah Arendt, then 18-years-old and Jewish. Through the story of this relationship the play examines the philosophical ideas of both, Arendt’s critical approach to Zionism, and her reservations about the Eichmann trial which was, in her view, political.
On the eve of the Beit Lessin premiere, the theatre feared that the audience would not like it because its characters were controversial, it was written in a high register, it dealt with philosophical subjects, and did not fit into the culture of rating and reality shows. Against this background the theatre’s director, Zippi Pines, was afraid it would not last more than a few performances.
Surprisingly this was not the case. On the contrary, the play, starring Oded Kotler as the young and older Heidegger, Leora Rivlin as the older Hannah Arendt, and Michal Stamler as young Arendt, and directed by Avishai Milstein, has been performed 150 times so far. It appears that the play will compete for the title of Best Play of the Year in the Israeli Theatre Prize, and has good chances of winning. The play, as performed in Beit Lessin, was invited to appear this year in April at the Heidelberg Festival, and in May – at Freiburg’s municipal theatre in Germany. Lately the play was locally produced in an Uppsala theatre in Sweden, and in May it will be produced in Ulm, Germany.
From a review by Zippi Shochat, published in Achbar Ha’ir, January 27, 2010.