The Gardens of Frau Hess | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Gardens of Frau Hess 

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Milton Frederick Marcus's 1998 play is an egregious example of the American tendency to see every event in terms of personal melodrama: he uses the Holocaust only as grisly backdrop to a fictional affair between the wife of Hitler's deputy fuhrer and her gardener, a Jewish botanist taken from a concentration camp. (You know how it goes: boy meets girl, girl calls boy a "hook-nosed degenerate," boy and girl fall into each other's arms over shared confidences, French wine, and Wagner records.) Quite apart from the affair's fundamental preposterousness, Marcus's recasting of genocide as a complication in a love story is criminally stupid. I suppose it's impressive that the actors in Linda LeVeque's production manage to wring a few drops of humanity from these two utterly false characters, but you can't help wondering what possessed Pyewacket to stage this nonsense in the first place. Through 7/2: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM. Athenaeum Theatre, third-floor studio theater, 2936 N. Southport, 312-902-1500. $10-$25.

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