Credit: Michael Brosilow

Wasting away on a student’s diet of crackers and boiled eggs, young Hannah Arendt (Christina Gorman) subjects her latest essay on neighborly love in Augustine to the chilly scrutiny of her married teacher, Martin Heidegger (Lawrence Grimm). Probably the two most brilliant people in Germany at that time, they fall in love, and in due course find themselves huddled clandestinely together in Martin’s hut in Todtnauberg. At first, Hannah is such a pale bundle of nerves there in her hero’s rooms that it feels playful of Martin to compare her to the mouse she’s seen nosing around her little grubby student apartment. Playful, that is, until terminology crops up later on in the play comparing Jews, of which Hannah is one, to rats—and Martin’s philosophy, thrilling wilderness of abstractions though it may be, starts looking like one charismatic German professor’s vast intellectual defense of the Third Reich.

Hannah spends most of the play standing up for Martin, an insane act of moral tight-rope walking, although Gorman doesn’t appear to take the same pleasure in baiting her opposition that the real Arendt did. She can make her case as a crusader for the autonomy of the intellect to whoever is listening, but when faced with the accusation that her feelings for the Nazi rector of Freiburg University are occluding her judgement, she comes close to backing down. Grimm’s Heidegger is commanding and memorable, but much too much of a scold. Louis Contey directs.   v