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A civic minded patriot, passing the Germanic Museum any night this last week, seing lights on, and hearing strange Germanic noises issuing from the sinister bowels of the building, would probably have felt perfectly justified in calling either the police or Alfred Hitchcock. The goings-on, however, although unusual, were quite harmless, being only rehearsals for the Museum's impending performances of Hoffmannsthal's "Jedermann."
This play, written by one of twentieth century Europe's best playwrights, is an excellent blend of German dramatic verse, pure theatre, and colorful pageantry, and should be well worth seeing even without a knowledge of German. Completed in 1911, it was first produced in Berlin by Max Rheinhardt, Germany's Cecil B. De Mille, with tremendous success. Its greatness as a play as well as the freshness and pertinence of what it had to say made it instantly popular, and it was subsequently performed every year on the steps of the Cathedral at Salzburg as a sort of dramatic-religious festival. Although God, Death, the Devil and a host of other abstractions put in their physical appearance, it is more than a mere translation of the English 16th century original "Everyman." Hoffmannsthal has taken the bare outline of the old play, and molded it into a work not only dramatically satisfying, but also sincerely effective as a plea for some kind of religious faith in a time of loose, money-grubbing morality.
The Germanic Museum could have been designed solely for the production of this play. With its full size replica of the entrance to the Freiburg Cathedral, the inner chapel, the baroque organ, as well as the advantages of an enclosed auditorium to give power and resonance to the spoken parts, the Museum is actually a better setting for the play than the traditional outdoor stage at Salzburg. Since the play, the setting, the costumes, and the organ are baroque, it is only natural that the acting should also be somewhat in the heroic vein. Any attempt at a careful realism would have destroyed the spirit and effect of the play.
Von Feber du Fauer, who is an authority on Hoffmannsthal and has directed the play several times in Europe, is director and chief actor, playing Jedermann with an exuberant gusto that fits the part perfectly. From among the students, Roman as "Tod," and Reynolds as the "Teufel" turn in outstanding performances. The cast comprises professionals and amateurs of all ages and both sexes, and every part down to the lowliest "Hausknecht" is surprisingly well played. Admission is free, and there are still some tickets for the Saturday night performance to be had at the Museum office.
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