The subject is broached when two Jewish brothers, David and Yossi Shapiro, are facing hard times running their famous Jewish delicatessen in midtown Manhattan.
The brothers fear business will get even tougher with the new competition: A German is opening up his own deli, Reinhardt’s, across the street.
The first public staged reading of the play will be Saturday, Sept. 28 at the Vortex Theatre.
“I thought I should bring the Holocaust into the picture as the brothers were made orphans by the Holocaust. They lost all 16 members of their family,” Atkins said.
“But I also wanted to show a different side – the German view. … I’m trying to give a more humanistic side to the German point of view.”
He also thought carefully about what year to put the play in. It takes place in 1972. New York’s city government is bankrupt. The Bronx is in flames.
Atkins said Mark Medoff, a well-known Las Cruces playwright, director and professor, urged him to set the play right after the 1972 Munich Olympics at which 11 Israeli Olympic team members were massacred.
“It’s definitely unique in pitting merchants of different backgrounds and they’re bringing an incredible amount of baggage with them,” Atkins said.
“But the play isn’t as much about the Holocaust as it is about the family unit – brothers, wives, kids. How memories of the Holocaust 25, 30 years later continue to affect the family unit. That’s also the idea for the German family. Their family unit is at stake as well.”
Atkins said the issues of hate, revenge and forgiveness also come into play.
Among the actors reading are Joe Alberti as David Shapiro, Benjamin Liberman as his brother Yossi, Carl Eisler as an old German violinist and Arthur Alpert as Rabbi Weiss.
Atkins, artistic director of the East Mountain Centre for Theatre, is hoping to mount a full production in Albuquerque.
“Many regional theaters are looking at it and I’m working on a screenplay,” he said.