Nathan the Wise, a fascinating old play that recalls an era when Jews, Muslims and Christians got along, begins at Classic Stage with an acknowledgement of the present: All the actors are arguing (in Arabic, Hebrew, Latin, German) — until F. Murray Abraham quiets everybody (in English): “We have a story to tell.”
The story, written by the German playwright Gotthold Ephriam Lessing in 1779, takes place in Jerusalem in 1192. Abraham plays Nathan, a Jewish merchant, who is summoned by Saladin, the sultan of Jerusalem (Austin Durant), to answer a question: Which among Christianity, Islam and Judaism is the true religion?
…Translator Edward Kemp has “compressed” the play to two hours, and changed it from the German verse in which it was written to an American prose, accessible without being overly colloquial. A uniformly able cast pulls it off at the Classic Stage Company’s first-rate production.
Click on any photograph by Richard Termine to see it enlarged.