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Friction, paranoia shatter lives in ‘DelikateSSen’

Richard Atkins, left, is David Shapiro and Justin Raper is Klaus Reinhardt in “DelikateSSen” at the Adobe Theater. (Courtesy of George A. Williams)

Richard Atkins, left, is David Shapiro and Justin Raper is Klaus Reinhardt in “DelikateSSen” at the Adobe Theater. (Courtesy of George A. Williams)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Two orphaned Holocaust survivors run a struggling Jewish deli in 1972 New York. Then a larger German deli opens across the street. Inflaming an already combustible confrontation, a Palestinian terrorist group has kidnapped and killed 11 Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics.

The result is an explosion of friction and (possibly justified) paranoia shattering the lives of everyone involved.

“DelikateSSen” opens at the Adobe Theater on Friday, April 3.

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The script’s genesis springs from the Baltimore childhood of playwright Richard Atkins.

“It was a very Jewish neighborhood,” he said. “People from my parents’ era had a very biased opinion of the Germans.”

Of the two brothers, the eldest, David, still has not let go of his hatred of the Germans who slaughtered 15 members of his family. The younger, Yossi, wants to move on.

“He wants to forget the horror,” Atkins said. “Concentration camp survivors are still dealing with incredible PTSD long afterward. They never forget it.”

When the German deli owner stops by to introduce himself, David wants nothing to do with him. Classmates are calling his daughter anti-Semitic slurs.

David decides to hire a Nazi hunter to investigate the German businessman.

“You don’t really find out until the last second of the play if the German is really a Nazi or not,” Atkins said.

“My father once said, ‘The only good German is a dead German,'” he continued. “I didn’t think that was right. The play shows both sides of the coin.”

Atkins tweaked the play with the help of Mark Medoff, the Tony Award-winning playwright of “Children of a Lesser God.” Medoff teaches at New Mexico State University.

Given the killings at a Jewish deli during the recent Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, “DelikateSSen’s” themes still resonate, Atkins said. Anti-Semitism continues to grow both at home and abroad.

“DelikateSSen” was one of six finalists from more than 400 scripts submitted to New York’s prestigious Abingdon Theatre for the Christopher Brian Wolk playwriting award.

The pay-what-you-will performance on April 16 coincides with Holocaust Remembrance Day.

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