The Investigation at Plymouth State College

February 15th, 2001 by Adam

Betsy Cheney

February 11, 2001

Nazi war crimes trial transcripts challenge viewers to investigate their conscience.

PLYMOUTH, N.H. — The Plymouth State College Department of Music and Theatre presents Paul Weiss’s political drama, The Investigation (Der Ermittlung) February 20-24 at the Silver Cultural Arts Center on Main Street in Plymouth. Performance times are 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday.

The Investigation presents Weiss’s version of events at the Auschwitz trials, which he attended in Frankfurt, Germany. The play is constructed as an oratorio, with scenes developed in a series of 11 free verse cantos with titles such as “The Platform,” “The Camp” and “ZyklonB.” Dramaturg Alex Gross wrote, “Weiss shapes the huge amount of material, reducing it to a compelling indictment of what happened at Auschwitz. … Oddly enough, the play is not so much agonizing as surprisingly serene, with an even more surprising dimension of forgiveness.”

The Investigation conveys the reality of Auschwitz by using the language of history – transcripts from the trials. PSC Director Paul Mroczka says, “Students find it moving when we read this play in class. It is written as a poem and presents real acting challenges.” He says it is important to find a balance between the oratorio and action, “to keep the literary nature of the drama, while developing characters that are interesting and engaging. That requires searching for words and phrases that create energy for the characters, and highlighting interactions among those characters.”
According to Mroczka, “Critics found The Investigation fascinating, but had trouble calling it a ‘play’ because it has no clear beginning, middle or end. But that is also it’s strength. People can experience it as a theatrical event – as a piece of history – and figure out their own connection to it. The play is an investigation of each of us, in terms of what we would be willing to do to survive.”

Weiss was born near Berlin in November, 1916 and fled Germany with his family in 1934, eventually settling in Sweden. A painter, novelist, filmmaker and playwright, his first produced play was staged in 1950. He achieved an international reputation in 1964 with his production of Marat/Sade. The Investigation followed in 1965.

Tickets for the performance are $9 general admission at the PSC box office, (603) 535-ARTS. If special accommodations are needed, please call in advance. The production is not suitable for children.