Playing the pensive, soft-spoken guy on stage is a bit harder than you might think.
That’s the task put before George Filieau this month as he tackles the role of Judge Haywood in the Classic Theatre Guild production of “Judgment at Nuremberg,” opening Friday at Congregation Beth Israel in Schenectady.
“Judge Haywood is a low-key guy, and while I like those sensitive roles, it isn’t always easy to play that,” said Filieau, a retired DMV employee and long-time North Greenbush resident who has taken to acting in a big way since retiring a few years ago. “That’s the challenge of this role. You gotta be big, but you also have to be low-key.”
“Judgment at Nuremberg” is a 2001 play written by Abby Mann, adapted from the movie and her own screenplay released 40 years earlier in 1961. The story centers on a military tribunal in Germany just after the conclusion of World War II, in which German judges and prosecutors stand accused of crimes against humanity for their involvement in atrocities committed under the Nazi regime.
In the movie version, Spencer Tracy played Judge Haywood, leading a star-studded lineup that included Burt Lancaster, Maximilian Schell, Montgomery Clift, Marlene Dietrich and Judy Garland.
Will watch it later
“I have never seen the movie, and my standard practice, once I get a role, is to not watch the movie,” said Filieau. “It’s my portrayal. I’ll go back and see what Spencer Tracy does when it’s all over with.”
‘Judgment at Nuremberg’
WHERE: Congregation Beth Israel, 2195 Eastern Parkway, Schenectady
WHEN: Opens at 7:30 tonight and runs through Nov. 13; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $20-$18
MORE INFO: www.classictheaterguild.com
WHERE: Albany Civic Theater, 235 Second Ave., Albany
WHEN: Opens Friday and runs through Nov. 20; performances are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $18-$10
MORE INFO: 462-1297, www.albanycivictheater.org
Filieau guesses that he has performed in nearly 40 plays since retiring from the DMV. He most recently played the over-the-top character of Art Hockstader in the Albany Civic Theater’s production of “The Best Man,” and last year he was Juror No. 8 (Henry Fonda’s character) in “12 Angry Men” for the Classic Theater Guild.
“This is obviously a tough play to do because it deals with some serious subject matter,” said Filieau. “These events are almost unbelievable in their brutality, but at the same time it’s important that people understand them. Hopefully, at the end, we’ll understand a bit better what happen, and like Judge Haywood says, we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
According to Pat Quinn, who plays Ernst Janning, a German doctor on trial, “Judgment at Nuremberg” has messages that should resonate today. Janning was played by Lancaster in the movie.
“It raises real questions about the value of an individual life, the power of fear, and the seductive danger of populist slogans,” said Quinn, who like Filieau has a long list of colorful characters on his resume. “It shows how decent, intelligent people can be swayed by the latter, or can find themselves caught up in the relentless tide of popular misconceptions. It shows how patriotism can so easily twist democracy into demagoguery.”
Glenn Read is directing “Judgment at Nuremberg,” while other cast members include Ken Goldfarb, John Reheuser and Phil Bruns.
Also opening this weekend at Albany Civic Theater is “Wonderful World,” Richard Dresser’s 2001 play about a close-knit family that is shaken to its core when a minor misunderstanding spirals out of control. Dresser, who teaches at Rutgers University and Queens College, wrote the book for the musicals “Johnny Baseball,” about the curse of the Red Sox, and “Good Vibrations,” about Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. He is a founding member of the Writers Guild Initiative, which does writing workshops for wounded warriors, veterans and caregivers.
The Albany Civic production stars Adam Coons, Abbi Ray, Jennifer Cullen, Jacob Luria and Debra Burger. Gary Hoffmann is directing.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or firstname.lastname@example.org.