Long before Springtime for Hitler became a Broadway hit inside the fantasy world of Mel Brooks’s The Producers, the Nazis were great fodder for everyone from Charlie Chaplin (The Great Dictator) to the Marx Brothers (Duck Soup). In 1942, the German director Ernst Lubitsch made To Be or Not to Be, a sophisticated comedy about a Warsaw-based theater company that comes to the aid of an American soldier working with the Polish resistance—until the leader of the troupe discovers that his wife and the soldier are having an affair. The film was a commercial failure at the time, but it has since been reappraised as a comic gem from a not-so-funny period in history. The Manhattan Theatre Club stages Nick Whitby’s adaptation; Casey Nicholaw, director-choreographer of The Drowsy Chaperone, directs.
Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, Sundays, 2 p.m.; Tuesdays, Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Sept. 11. Continues through Nov. 23, 2008