By Shannon Wilson
The dangers of being a bystander is told through Max Frisch’s explosive comedy “The Arsonists.” The St. Michael’s College theatre took us back in time to the early 1950’s, post World War II through the story of Biedermann, a man who treats his workers poorly at his hair serum business. And, to ease his guilt, he allows two men to stay in his attic. The men, of course, are the arsonists raising havoc in the city. Despite all the signs that point toward danger, Biedermann ignores them, hoping that they will leave him, but ultimately leading to his own demise.
Despite the timing of what is going on in our world right now, Peter Harrigan, the director and costume designer of the production, said that they had been planning on doing the show since before the election. “We try to have a variety of different genres and time periods.” Harrigan said, “I like the fact that this particular play has this duality to it where it has humor, but it is about something very serious.”
The name Biedermann, literally translates to “everyman.” “He’s supposed to represent the average person, and the idea of sort being a bystander, the average person is very capable of letting awful things happen if they’re not careful.” said Pat Cornacchio, ‘18, who has participated in shows throughout his time at the college.
“There’s a lot of political turmoil and this show is just about wherever you stand, don’t be a bystander.” he said.
Frisch wrote this show to depict the Nazi’s of World War II as the arsonists in the show, and Biedermann is supposed to represent all of the countries who stood by until it was too late and the Holocaust began.
The actual arsonists, Schmitz, played by Owen Freeman, ’19, and Willi, played by Caleb Roman, ’20, represent what bystanders are too afraid to stand up to. Throughout the show, both characters make references to Biedermann that they are planning to burn down his home. Biedermann even helps Willi look for a detonator in his attic after both Schmitz and Willi filled the attic with tanks of gasoline. Overlooking these references, Biedermann ends up giving them the match with which they use to burn down the house.
It is a very interactive show as well. The show features a chorus of firemen who watch the story unfold with the audience, while talking both to the audience as well as interacting with the characters on stage. “I liked the idea of the chorus because they add another theatrical layer that was really kinda fun,” Harrigan said. Babette,
Biedermann’s wife, played by Molly Lovell, ’19, also speaks directly to the audience and one character named “A PhD,” played by Josef Kranz, ’18, even joins the audience at one point.
This show may now be over, however, but the senior theater majors are putting together their final shows at St. Michael’s.