The Other German Ring. (Front and Center)
Brown, Lenora Inez, American Theatre
Last spring when Rick Davis, artistic director of the Theater of the First Amendment, scheduled a fall production of Gotthold Lessing's 1799 play Nathan the Wise, he had no idea how timely the choice would be. "We didn't forecast any sort of cataclysm," commented Davis one week after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. "We chose Nathan the Wise in the context of the ongoing world strife (partly in the Middle East), based on a misconception of religion as a justification of heinous acts."
The play, full of character twists and thwarted romance, focuses on the imprisonment and trial of Nathan, a world traveler and merchant living in Jerusalem under Islamic rule. He's charged with raising his adopted daughter Recha, a Jew by birth, as a Christian. Nathan's defense hinges on the parable of the three rings--two of which he comes to possess through his travels, the other worn by the ruler Saladin. It's said that only the owner of the true ring may rule. The twist is that three rings--a la the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam--were forged centuries ago by a ruler for his three sons; their descendants have been battling each other ever since. The lesson, according to Davis, is that "if you can't tell which ring is real, let them all be true. …