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story.lead_photo.caption Tyler Volz (left) and Kris Isham are part of the cast of Oren Safdie’s Things to Do in Munich, premiering Friday at the Victory Theater in Rogers.

Oren Safdie's work appears on stages across the country, including New York; Los Angeles, his current home; and his hometown of Montreal.

But he had a good enough experience premiering a play in Rogers a half-dozen years ago that he agreed to repeat the experience this fall.

The Rogers Little Theatre debuted Safdie's Checks and Balances in October-November 2012. It was the theater's first professional production with Equity actors, originally billed as part of a plan to evolve into a professional company under the Little Theatre's nonprofit umbrella.

"It was a good production and the audiences were enthusiastic, and there's not much more you can ask for as a playwright," Safdie says.

And he said in The Jerusalem Post, "It's nice to come to a town where a play opening feels like a happening of the whole region," praising the area theater community as being welcoming and open-minded.

Now going by the Arkansas Public Theatre, the same group will stage the world premiere of Safdie's Things to Do in Munich, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday and Nov. 8-10, 2 p.m. Nov. 4 and 11 at the Victory Theater, 116 S. Second St., Rogers.

Safdie, a Canadian-American-Israeli playwright and screenwriter, agrees with the theater's description of the play, set in the mid-'70s, as a "Kafka-esque black comedy, steeped with historical references and ironic twists." Sheldon Hoffman, a reclusive Jewish accountant in his 40s, encounters a web of German bureaucracy, confiscation, misplacement and redirection, a manhunt and a kidnapping as he attempts to fulfill his mother's last wishes by returning her ashes to Munich to be reunited with his father, who died there during the Holocaust. The play contains adult language and content and the theater recommends it for mature audiences.

Safdie's Northwest Arkansas connection comes at least in part through his father, Israeli architect Moshe Safdie, who designed the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville. And part of the basis for the play comes from the experiences of his mother, a Polish Holocaust survivor who cringed any time she heard German being spoken and who once fled a Volkswagen dealership after spotting a white-coated German mechanic in the dealer's service department.

Another element derived from a friend in the insurance business in Munich who told him about a man trying to obtain information on a Holocaust victim but was stymied by the municipality's stubborn block on giving out details because the woman still owed on a 60-plus-year-old utility bill. Yet another came from somebody trying to return ashes to Germany who fell afoul of a regulation against taking bodies across the German border.

Safdie explains that he has maintained a close relationship with Ed McClure, the theater's production chairman and director of this production, since the 2012 premiere.

"I frequently give my new plays to Ed for feedback, and he expressed an immediate interest in directing this one for the 2018-19 season," he says.

"He and I correspond often," McClure told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last spring, "and he let me read this new play of his -- and I really, really loved it. So I thought, I'm going to be brave and just tell him I want to direct it.

"It's kind of a departure for him. It's a comedy with a point, and it's really funny. It moves quickly, and it's delightful but also poignant."

Safdie will speak briefly and answer questions at an opening-night post-show champagne reception in his honor at which patrons can obtain autographed copies of Checks and Balances.

Cabaret seats are $29, $48 per two-person table; balcony seats are $22. Call (479) 631-8988 or visit arkansaspublicTheater.org.

Style on 10/28/2018

Print Headline: Rogers theater premiering Kafka-esqe black comedy

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