Nathan the Wise tells the story of Jews, Muslims and Christians who discover how to live in peace. It is a parable of timely interest, considering continuing unrest in the Mideast, yet it was written during the Enlightment in 1779 and is set six centuries before that, in Jerusalem. The three main characters are Nathan, a Jewish merchant; Saladin, the Muslim sultan who ruled over much of the Mideast; and an unnamed Christian templar participating in what is now called the third crusade.
“This play was banned and burned in Nazi Germany – and was the first play performed in Berlin after the end of World War II,” said director Pat van Catledge of the work, which was written in German by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing. The Drama League production uses a modern translation. The Nazis banned it because the title character is Jewish.
To help capture the power of the play, there will be a discussion after the Nov. 16 performance. A study guide will be available for a performance scheduled just for high school students.
“Theater, at its noblest, is great storytelling which takes us out of our current situation and enables us to better understand who we are – individually and in relationship with others. That’s exactly what Nathan the Wise does,” van Catledge said. “This is a story of love and hope in a precarious world; of restoration after deep loss and suffering; of friendships that overcome biases and prejudices; of humor and mistaken identities."
Nathan the Wise runs November 13-16, at the Wilmington Drama League. Performances are at 8:00pm November 13 through 15 with a 2:00pm matinee on November 16. Tickets are $17.