‘Firebugs’ explores timeless issue of complacency of man | PostIndependent.com

‘Firebugs’ explores timeless issue of complacency of man

Ryan Graff
Post Independent Staff

By the end of the day today Lon Winston will have been through three opening nights of the “The Firebugs.”

And even though each of the openings has been more than a decade apart (he acted in the play in 1960s and directed it in the ’80s), each opening seems to have related directly to that decade’s most pressing issues.

“In the U.S. it (the play) has been used as a vehicle for civil rights, the Vietnam War,” said Winston of the play.

“It’s really timely now,” he said, given today’s current events.

“The Firebugs” was written in 1954 by the Swiss playwright Max Frisch. The plot has to do with two arsonists who go door to door in a town asking for a place to sleep, and then burn the house down. During the play they come to the home of Gottleib Biedermann, a wealthy businessman, and his wife Babette, who think they can make themselves immune to the work of the firebugs.

The play is a satire of the German bourgeois during World War II, said Winston.

“They sort of put blinders on and watched what was coming down, and sort of said, ‘as long as it’s not happening to me,'” he said of wealthy Germans during World War II. “It’s about the complacency of man.”

The arrival of the arsonists at the Biedermanns’, who often proclaim themselves morally enlightened, presents a dangerous situation for the Biedermanns and the town.

The play is not set in a specific town or in a specific time, which often makes audiences believe the play is the perfect metaphor for their real-life cause, said Winston, be it the war in Iraq, racism, the environment, or women’s rights.

The play may be especially insightful for a Roaring Fork Valley audience, said Winston.

“Our valley sees itself as an enlightened valley, yet when you look at the different groups, each thinks the other is being complacent,” he said.

Aside from the moral or political insights the audience may gain from the play, they will also be entertained.

“It’s a satire and a comedy,” said Winston. “We really blow the whole thing up out of proportion … and it’s become almost a cartoon of society.”

Contact Ryan Graff: 945-8515, ext. 520


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