Hesterectomy

**Stature is what Frank D. Gilroy's Contact With the Enemycarefully avoids, trying for strictly honorable reasons to deal with its big topic only in small-scale, down-home human terms. That's hard, since the topic is the human capacity for evil, as seen in the Holocaust by two U.S. Army vets who, having been in the unit that unearthed Ohrdruf-Nord, the first of the death camps to be discovered by the Allies, meet again at Washington's Holocaust Museum and, while getting their oral histories taken, find their memories don't tally about who did what to whom, not only at Ohrdruf but in the army's treatment of German POWs. Striking and effective as it often is, the piece is weakened by Gilroy's alternate waves of caution and carelessness: He takes great pains to establish that nobody involved is a Holocaust denier, and then writes as though a system of mass extermination and one individual's act carried identical moral weight. (The U.S. committed worse crimes in World War II than those he describes—ask anybody from Dresden.) His treatment of the museum official who takes the men's oral histories also goes through some weird contortions, inventing an elaborate personal agenda to explain an attempt to suppress information—all of which is so far from the practice of oral historians that it suggests either a lurking resentment on Gilroy's part or a desperate need to make the character "interesting." The oblique, minatory tone of Chris Smith's production, in the same vein, keeps hinting at ominous consequences that never arrive; the worst that happens is that one vet falls off the wagon, and gives a moral lecture before reeling home. Still, the little (65-minute) play's best passages have Gilroy's springy conciseness, and pack a salutary sting, while Nesbitt Blaisdell plays the small-town vet tormented by his memories with a pained, craggy truculence that's infinitely moving. Christopher Murney, stuck with the less gratifying role of his friendly antagonist, displays great patience.

Details

In the Blood
By Suzan-Lori Parks
Joseph Papp Public Theater
425 Lafayette Street
239-6200

Contact With the Enemy
By Frank D. Gilroy
Ensemble Studio Theatre
549 West 52nd Street
247-4982

The Price
By Arthur Miller
Royale Theatre
Broadway and 45th Street
239-6200

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**Patience is what audiences need to get through Arthur Miller's The Price,a play in which the political becomes personal rather than vice versa. A cop who's never forgiven his older brother for ditching their dad after the crash of '29 gets a chance to never forgive him again, and takes it. Miller is open-minded, and proficient, enough to note that there's fault on both sides, but he can't help favoring the embittered cop anyway; even his wife, who's pushing him to make peace for the sake of older brother's financial help, ends up siding with him. It would all be dismissable trivia, despite Jeffrey deMunn's hammering, wound-up-tight power as the cop and Harris Yulin's slyly needling softness as his doctorbrother, except that Miller created a remarkable comic role for the one intruder, a pesky, philosophic used-furniture dealer older and grander than the antiques he peddles. From four New York productions, I can barely remember a moment of the familial bickering. But I remember Joseph Buloff, who was gigantic as the furniture man Off-Broadway decades ago. And I'll remember Bob Dishy, who plays the role in the current Broadway revival. Though not on Buloff's grand scale, Dishy is pungent, pointed, and funny at every moment; his best bit—indignantly snatching a wad of cash from his own hand when the doctor reaches over to take his pulse—will be this generation's classic example of how a creative actor can convey, in one gesture, the complete essence of a character.

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