Rechnitz by Elfriede Jelinek, Directed by Ildiko Nemeth
Rechnitz, by Nobel Prize-winning Austrian playwright Elfriede Jelinek, is a cerebral work examining the silence around an actual event of mind-boggling evil. In the spring of 1945, with the Russian army only a few miles away, Countess Margit von Battyany hosted a party at her castle in Rechnitz, near the Hungarian border. Aristocrats mixed with SS officers in a night of crazed drinking and debauchery. At the height of the orgiastic celebrations, 15 of the more senior guests were invited to a barn on the property where almost 200 Jewish prisoners, half-starved and exhausted from forced labor, were held; there, the drunken guests opened fire. After the war, talk of the massacre was buried along with victims’ bodies. Local residents refused to cooperate with an investigation; one witness was murdered and another died under suspicious circumstances. Rechnitz delves bravely into the horrifying psychology behind the massacre and its cover-up. Most disturbing in the event, Jelinek has said, was its marrying of lust with violence. Her text comprises reports from “messengers” — aristocrats, officers, and servants — who are witness-participants in a historical moment of mass insanity, a situation wherein the moral compass of an entire society has gone berserk.