Myrvold’s Theatre Notes: Dugan Portrays Wiesenthal with Sparkling Good Humor

The story of Simon Wiesenthal, the famed Nazi hunter, is by now legendary. Born on the last day of December, 1908, in Buczacz in what is now Ukraine, he, like millions upon millions of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, untold numbers of children, as well as the infirm, disabled, and others deemed undesirable, were swept up and placed in concentration camps where no less than eleven million were murdered or worked to death during the war years of 1939-45. Moved from camp to camp, he suffered many privations and physical suffering. Near death and weighing ninety pounds, he was ultimately rescued from Mauthausen concentration camp by American troops on May 5, 1945, where within three weeks of liberation he started compiling lists of suspected Nazi war criminals.

Wiesenthal, written and performed by Tom Dugan, tells the story of Simon Wiesenthal with tremendous passion— the details of his young life; his relationship with his beloved wife Cela, who, against all odds also survived the Holocaust; and his relentless pursuit of those Nazis who perpetrated unspeakable crimes. The play begins on the last day of his six decades of hunting Nazis. As personified by Mr. Dugan, Wiesenthal is presented as a frail, light-hearted man, who banters with his audience, who he treats as expected knowledge seekers who show up unexpectedly. His office is a mess of packing boxes that contain his voluminous files and other memorabilia. Still on the job, he goes on the phone trying to lever one more Nazi out of a Syrian hotel before he quits. An obstinate woman on the other end is resistance to his pleas to get a formal document of residence that would allow the extradition of the aged miscreant.

Wiesenthal two copyFor more than ninety minutes, Mr. Dugan portrays with sparkling good humor a man still vibrant in his nineties who shuffles more than he walks as he details some of his accomplishments, most significantly the tracking down of the policeman who arrested Anne Frank in Amsterdam, and his participation in locating the notorious Adolf Eichmann who was living under an assumed name in Buenos Aires. Using information supplied by Wiesenthal, Eichmann was captured by agents of the Israeli Mossad and spirited out of Brazil to Israel where he was tried and executed.

Wiesenthal, directed by Jenny Sullivan, continues through June 13, performing on Tuesdays May 22, 29, June 5 and 12; Wednesdays on May 30, June 6 and 13; and Mondays on June 4 and 11; in the Reuben Cordova Theatre at Theatre 40, 241 S. Moreno Drive in Beverly Hills. All performances are at 7:00 p.m.