Hitler And His Niece: Abuse Of Power

Hitler And His Niece: Abuse Of Power

Ted Merwin’s column appears monthly. He writes about theater for the paper and is the author of the award-winning “Pastrami on Rye,” a history of the Jewish deli.

http://www.3vtheater.comShe was the niece of the most evil man who ever lived — and he was in love with her.

Aliza Shane’s new play, “Mein Uncle,” is loosely based on the relationship between Hitler and Geli Raubal, his half-niece, with whom he was sexually obsessed. The play, which is more fantasy than history, asks whether the abuse of power in a relationship can have repercussions that extend into the wider world. “Mein Uncle,” which began performances this week, runs through June 8 in the East Village.

Geli was the eldest daughter of Hitler’s half-sister, Angela. Both women lived in Hitler’s home from the time Geli was 17, first in his villa near Berchtesgaden, and then in his apartment in Munich. When the self-described “King of Munich” discovered that his “queen” was having an affair with his chauffeur, Emil Maurice, a man with known Jewish ancestry, he tried to control her even more, and she (it seems) killed herself in 1931 with his pistol; she was 23.

In “Mein Uncle,” which is directed by Shane, Uncle Alf (Eric Percival) is in love with his niece Geli (Amanda Marikar) who lives in a giant birdcage. Angela (Judy Molner) lives in the same house, where she keeps her eyes on her daughter and works as Hitler’s housekeeper. When Uncle Alf takes on a young protégé, Emil (Jordan Tierney) to be his chauffeur, romantic sparks start to fly between the two young people. Four Nordic women serve as a kind of Greek chorus, expressing Geli’s feelings about her vexing and precarious situation.

While the circumstances of Geli’s death were mysterious, leading some to speculate that Hitler murdered her, dying was, Shane told The Jewish Week, “the only way for Geli to get away from him.” She called Geli a “dark-haired, full-figured, down-to-earth” woman who, in her play, lives among striking blonde Aryan beauties who make her feel insecure.

While Shane learned about the Holocaust at her Jewish day school, the SAR Academy in Riverdale, “We never studied what Hitler was like as a man. I’m not trying to exonerate him in any way, but just to understand what might have triggered his behavior.”

Nevertheless, she said that the “fairy tale” play is not actually set in Germany, or any recognizable place. Nor does it refer directly to Hitler or to the Nazis. “The play, which gets progressively darker, exists in a bubble, in a kind of state of suspended animation,” she explained. “At the end of the play, the bubble bursts — and all the terrible things happen next.”

“Mein Uncle” runs through June 8 at the Robert Moss Theatre, 440 Lafayette St. Performances are weeknights (except Tuesday, June 3) and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with weekend matinees at 2 p.m. For tickets, $18, call (800) 838-3006 or visit http://www.3vtheatre.com

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