Jewish Journal

Then There Was One

by Naomi Pfefferman

Posted on May. 20, 2004 at 8:00 pm

"I have all these weird mixed feelings about my new play," Neil Goldman said.

As the grandson of Holocaust survivors, he wrote "A Candle for the Last," about the last living survivor, to do his part for Holocaust remembrance.

"But at the same time, there's the 'by Neil Goldman' aspect to it," Goldman, a staff writer for NBC's "Scrubs," said, sheepishly.

"Here I am doing a newspaper interview," he said. "Meanwhile, my grandmother is proud I've written a play, and she thinks Steven Spielberg should come see it. But did I subconsciously write it for that reason?"

The dos and don'ts of Holocaust literature have been on Goldman's mind since he began the one-act play -- which will have a reading May 27 at the Skirball Cultural Center -- two years ago. The last-survivor idea came from an item he'd scribbled in a journal after suddenly realizing one day his grandmother and all other survivors would be gone. The implications seemed staggering, even during a time of virtual Holocaust art overdose and as films such as "Hitler's Secretary" continued to grace cinemas. Goldman, for his part, vowed not to pander to the kind of "horror movie fascination" he believes some people have with the Shoah. He resisted watching his grandmother's entire videotaped testimonial, in part, "because I didn't want to fight the urge to put those details in the play."

"Candle's" protagonist, Nathan (Ed Asner), expresses similar concerns when he declines to cooperate with the Remembrance Foundation employee (Ian Lithgow) who hopes to videotape his story. "Why do we tell? Hm? To teach?" Nathan asks, rhetorically. "Maybe we tell to ... entertain."

"Candle" -- which like "Scrubs" is quirky and poignant -- avoids such pitfalls by focusing on the character's postwar experience. "The play is a very good example of how theater can use the Holocaust as subject matter without being exploitative," said Rachel Jagoda of the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, which is producing the show.

Goldman, nevertheless, continues to question his own motivations: "On the one hand, I know my heart is in the right place," he said. "On the other, maybe even the fact that I'm thinking about this makes it all about me. So there's that kind of dynamic going on."

For tickets to the May 27 reading at the Skirball, which benefits the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, call to R.S.V.P. (323) 651-3704.

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