Two years down the pike, much of the Sturm und Drang surrounding Bernard Madoff and his elaborate Ponzi scheme has become more nuanced. Nowadays, Madoff’s behavior does more than just provoke shock and indignation; it raises questions about Jewishness, human dignity and, above all, morality. These questions are embodied by the situation of Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, one of the more prominent individuals bilked by Madoff.
Indeed, one of the unresolved questions in l’affaire Madoff is that of the relationship between Wiesel, one of the most revered Jews in the world, and Madoff, one of the most loathed.
Specifically, what might Wiesel have to say to Madoff? This question is explored in a striking play by the Yale University professor and playwright Deb Margolin, “Imagining Madoff,” to open in a re-contoured version directed by Alexandra Aron at Washington D.C.’s Theater J on August 31.
Margolin’s play has been no stranger to controversy. Its original version prompted threats of a lawsuit on the part of Wiesel, who, in The New York Times, characterized the play as both “defamatory” and “obscene.” The original script of “Imagining Madoff” had Wiesel as the foil to Madoff, and portrayed the two men as point-counterpoint typologies. One appears decent and moral, a fighter for human dignity, and the other morally bankrupt, the worst financial criminal in centuries — but in fact, the script portrays neither Madoff nor Wiesel as anything other than human.