"Josephus," the play that now is playing in
Schwartz's Art Theatre, is based on Feuctwanger's historical novel.
The dramatization was created by Maurice Schwartz.
Feuchtwanger's historical novel is a large work with a mass of
scenes, images, events, and the play includes only a part of its
contents. But that would not be the case. We are talking here about
the content of Schwartz's drama, not about the novel from which it
It is very rich and wealthy, with beautiful
costumes and beautiful sets, with an entire series of mass scenes.
From a dramatic standpoint, the results, however, are very poor. The
truth is that such a novel should be left to the reader, where it
will be better dramatized.
Dramatic interest lies mainly in
the feelings and passions of a single person that one shows in their
relationships in collisions with another person or several persons.
Fine sets and costumes can have meaning as an addition, as
"trimming." The main thing, however, must be in the human feelings
that are developed within the play. If this happens in such a place that
it captures the viewer's interest, arouses him, immerses him in the
battle that unfolds in wonder, then we have drama; and if there are
images, vivid images of mutual human relationships, moods, [this]
give life to the drama and increases its magnetic effect.
first thing that a drama should have is dramatism, and the new play
is very rich in this respect.
The sets are beautiful, and the costumes also.
There are also a couple of mechanical effects that are very
interesting. But is all only for the eye. There is nothing that
reaches the heart. And the fact is that when they applaud, they are
applauding a piece of "scenery," and rarely the play or the acting.
Yes, it is a production for the eye, but not for the ears, because the words that are heard in it make a small impression on
the theatre visitor. Not only are they powerless within their content,
but with their external sounds as well.
People are moving from those times, when in Jerusalem the Temple
was still standing; and, as the style is in several plays, one
doesn't speak with a human speech, but they declaim; the words
spring out oddly. It seems to you
that you are being told the Song of Songs. Imagine that speaking to
people with human feelings would be difficult, even if the play had
a truly dramatic tone. When real people have a conversation, they
don't sing songs to each other.
But this is not what is most
important. There are plays where the actors jump around unnaturally, and
where their words also sound unnatural. And regardless there is much
dramatic interest. You get used to the "notes" and you forget
without them. One becomes immersed in the relationships between the
people and in the drama that develops between them. Here, in this
play, Schwartz has no good luck here either. Everything is with a
broad hand, everything is shiny. However, one can say that the
entire production is a fine costume without a body. There hang bare
sleeves; there are empty palaces.
Several times I managed to
point out Schwartz's sense as well as theatre director. When a play
has dramatic power, he is the first to appreciate it. He immediately
feels the pulse of such a play. This was especially evident in his
evaluation of "Yoshe Kalb," which is easily the most dramatic thing
that the stage has when it is owned, and this is confirmed by the
incomparable success that it had and still has. Schwartz on the
stage recognized this dramatic treasure in Singer's novel, when he
published it in the "Forward." As far as "Josephus" is concerned,
Schwartz was obviously so overwhelmed by the sea of colorful scenes,
what the book contains and the possibilities to create rich sets
with costumes, that the main thing -- that a drama must have drama
for the stage -- he forgot.