By John Townsend for Lavender Magazine
When the Nazis and Soviets invaded 1930s Poland, Jewish and Catholic natives were pitted against each other. When an entire Polish village's Jewish population is wiped out in Tadeusz Slobodzianek's controversial drama, Jewish Rachelka (Candace Barret Birk) is hidden away in an attic by her Catholic boyfriend. Ultimately, in order to survive she must become Catholic, marry, and hence, discard her identity. Birk says Our Class portrays "what happens when fear overtakes sense, when it overtakes compassion, and when it overtakes love."
Director Miriam Monasch says the play "is both very specific and, unfortunately, very universal. It resonates for me on both levels. My father's family can be traced for many generations to a small town in central Poland. His stories of growing up in eastern Germany--now Poland again--could be right out of this play. In the time between the two World Wars there was unbelievable political and economic turmoil and the response was to turn on the 'other.' Scapegoating Jews was nothing new in Europe. Today we seem the same response to turbulent times in our country in the right wing's attempts to blame immigrants for our economic problems or the LGBT community for our 'moral decline.' Our Class shows the very real danger we face when extremist rhetoric can turn friends and neighbors against each other. And how quickly hate-filed words can become monstrous actions.