New Jewish Theatre to stage ‘The Value of Names’

How important is our name to us? In the 1950s this became a question with significant repercussions during the infamous McCarthy hearings. During that period, the ostensible search for communists in the guise of un-American Activities (or today’s National Security) ended up destroying the lives of many.

In “The Value of Names” by Jeffrey Sweet, next up at New Jewish Theatre, the relationship of two “former” friends is examined as they are asked to deal with their moral convictions-not only in the past but in the present.

Both political and personal, it is the story of two men, Benny and Leo, whose friendship ended as a result of the hearings before the U.S. House Committee on UnAmerican Activities. After Benny, a celebrated comic, was named to the Hollywood blacklist by Leo, a well-known director, his career took a nosedive. Now, more than 30 years later, new circumstances force the two to confront each other and explore their deepest feelings. It seems that Benny’s aspiring actress daughter has been cast in a play to be directed by Leo, the man who had testified against him.

Suddenly Benny is forced to deal again with a moral crisis, which he has tried to put behind him. When the two former friends meet, a confrontation ensues exposing a provocative and increasingly passionate exchange of ideas and convictions.

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The play was originally commissioned by Actors Theatre of Louisville for their 1982 season. The production is directed by Alec Wild and features NJT Artistic Associate, Bobby Miller along with Peter Mayer and Elana Kepner. It will run in the Wool Studio Theater March 15-April 1.

Tickets for the production are available through the NJT website, www.newjewishtheatre.org or the box office, 314-442-3283. For more information or to purchase tickets, call the NJT box office at 314-442-3283.