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This ""most controversial play of our time"", a storm-center wherever it has been staged, is much better than might be expected, but not that much. Moral indignation is its life's blood and its theme - the crise de conscience which should have taken place at the time of Hitler's murder of the Jews and which didn't- is certainly bold, courageous and unsettling. However, as a play of character or ideas it's anemic. It owes something to Breoht, the ""epic"" quality (150,000 words), the didacticism; something to Buechner: and an enormous amount to various historians and documentarians: some of the most effective speeches being in the nature of whitepaper revelations. Unfortunately its young German author uses poster colors all over the place: blank verse; long-winded polemics; melodramatically underplayed glimpses of ghoulish figures, including Eichmann; bits of bathes. Nor is the message new: when terror becomes institutionalized people become faceless, except for the rare individuals who yet act in the name of man. Thus the two heroes: an anti-Nazi masquerading as an SS officer; and a Catholic priest who pins on the Yellow Star and goes to die at Auschwitz. What is new, though, and what has made the play ""sensational"" is the pilloried portrait of Pope Pius XII, who out of unexplained cowardice or convenience, refused to protest the slaughter of 6 million. As the Deputy of Christ, says Hochhuth, he should have done so, and he is right. But Hochhuth also contends-and bases his whole appeal upon it- that this would have stopped the gassings- a contention more naive than debatable. ""How many troops does the Pope have?"", Stalin contemptuously asked, and one can well imagine der Fuhrer's similar reaction... The Deputy is platform theatre, dramatized reportage. Judged unesthetically, its humanitarian insistence and furious ""exposures"" make it a heady event.

Pub Date: March 2nd, 1964
Publisher: rove