Justin Ivan Brown
Jeanne Lauren Smith
Rechnitz, by Nobel Prize-winning Austrian playwright Elfriede Jelinek, is a cerebral work examining the silence around an actual event of mind-boggling evil. In the spring of 1945, with the Russian army only a few miles away, Countess Margit von Battyany hosted a party at her castle in Rechnitz, near the Hungarian border. Aristocrats mixed with SS officers in a night of crazed drinking and debauchery. At the height of the orgiastic celebrations, 15 of the more senior guests were invited to a barn on the property where almost 200 Jewish prisoners, half-starved and exhausted from forced labor, were held; there, the drunken guests opened fire. After the war, talk of the massacre was buried along with victims' bodies. Local residents refused to cooperate with an investigation; one witness was murdered and another died under suspicious circumstances. Rechnitz delves bravely into the horrifying psychology behind the massacre and its cover-up. Most disturbing in the event, Jelinek has said, was its marrying of lust with violence. Her text comprises reports from "messengers" -- aristocrats, officers, and servants -- who are witness-participants in a historical moment of mass insanity, a situation wherein the moral compass of an entire society has gone berserk.
This program is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.
This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
Funding has been made possible by the Puffin Foundation.