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The play “Conspiracy,” which premieres tonight and will run through Nov. 23 at the Loeb Mainstage, opens in a quaint room; conference tables flank the stage accompanied by plush leather chairs. What the audience doesn’t know is that the paintings that adorn the wall were Hitler’s favorites, and the documents the gentlemen read are meant to be the Nazi plan for the extermination of Jewish people.
“Conspiracy offers a portrait of human evil,” director Caleb J. T. Thomson ’14 says. It depicts the proceedings of the 1942 Wannsee Conference in which SS officials and senior officials of Nazi Germany came together to discuss the Final Solution. The seemingly casual air of the show means to add to its didactic and foreboding irony. “The stuff that the men are talking about in this play, they think of themselves as idealists—as progressives pushing forward a new world order,” says Thompson, who is also a Crimson arts editor.
Thompson, who saw the original film version of “Conspiracy” at age 17, says he was profoundly affected by its message and jumped at the opportunity to bring it to Harvard. The students are working with the writer of both the film and the stage adaption, Loring Mandel, to ensure the authenticity of the production.
The uniforms of the officials are decorated with realistic regalia, and even the actors’ haircuts are reminiscent of the period’s popular style: shaved on the sides and longer on top.
Absorbing a character’s actions and decisions is not easy, especially with this show. “As an actor, having to accept a philosophy that is dark is always going to be daunting,” Adam J. Conner ’14, a Crimson business editor, says of his role as Reinhard Heydrich. Conner says he spent time researching Heydrich as a historical figure in order to round out his performance on stage.
“The challenge for the actors and me is getting inside the heads of 15 of the most evil men that ever lived,” Thompson says.
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