DC's Theater J Aims to Produce Revised Version of Imagining Madoff

News   DC's Theater J Aims to Produce Revised Version of Imagining Madoff
Imagining Madoff, the Deb Margolin play that was withdrawn from Washington, DC's Theater J schedule in May 2010 following legal threats by Elie Wiesel — who was a character in the work — is expected to be back on that company's schedule, the Washington City Paper reported.

Elie Wiesel
Elie Wiesel Photo by Aubrey Reuben

A rewritten version of the play, swapping out Wiesel for a Jewish poet and Holocast survivor named Solomon Galkin, eventually surfaced at Stageworks/Hudson in Hudson, NY, and impressed Theater J artistic director Ari Roth enough to invite the play back on his season.

The play focuses on Bernard Madoff, notorious for masterminding a ponzi scheme that brought financial ruin to many. In the original version, Madoff reportedly has a long encounter with writer, humanitarian and Holocaust survivor Wiesel.

A spokesperson for Theater J told Playbill.com that an official announcement about the staging would come later. The script was originally announced for 2010-11 season at Theater J, a company devoted to Jewish writers or plays relating to the Jewish experience.

According to a May 19, 2010, blog posting by artistic director Roth on Theater J's website, "The playwright pulled the play from Theater J after she determined she was not able or willing to make the revisions we requested of her which included changing the name and likeness of the sage Jewish character in the play from 'Elie Wiesel' to a wholly new, fictional character."

Wiesel, who was sent a copy of the original script, objected to the use of his name as a character in the play, which focuses on the admitted (and now incarcerated) white-collar criminal, the investment consultant Bernard Madoff. Wiesel was one of many victims of Madoff's investment schemes, which bilked investors out of billions of dollars over several decades. Wiesel threatened legal action about his name being connected to the play. The world premiere of the three-character Imagining Madoff was to play Aug. 28-Oct. 3, 2010, under the direction of Daniella Topol. It was replaced by Willy Holtzman's five-character Something You Did, about "a convicted felon meeting one of his victims."

Roth previously stated that contrary to a report in the Washington Post, the leadership of the Equity company did not "cancel" the production. "Rather, the play was withdrawn by the author. We'll miss the play. And we're saddened by the events."

Margolin told The Washington Post that she put Wiesel in the play because "his name is synonymous with decency, morality, the struggle for human dignity and kindness."

Roth previously noted, "There are people to feel badly for here, much more so than for Theater J: Deb Margolin, for instance, who's written her heart out in this play; and yet it's a completely fictional rumination on a deeply proud — and, in the context of the Madoff scandal, shamed — public figure who was privately defrauded. The play has much pathos for him, but it's painful to revisit; and the Wiesel of the play is unrecognizable to Wiesel the man himself. That's both the best and worst thing you can say about the play."

Washington City Paper further reports that the play will run Aug. 31-Sept. 25 in a production directed by Alexandra Aron and starring Rick Foucheux as Madoff and Mike Nussbaum as Galkin. The role of Madoff's secretary has not been cast.

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