Many of us know the popular versions of historical events, which focus on their essence, simplify facts and complex circumstances, and offer a version that makes a story simple and linear, easy to absorb intellectually and emotionally. One such incident, and the subject of the new production Rosenbaum’s Rescue at the Park Theatre, is the miraculous survival, by their secret evacuation by boats to Sweden, of almost all eight thousand Danish Jews during the Nazi occupation of Denmark during World War II.

Rosenbaum’s Rescue has not only a factual basis in history but a personal one for its author, the film-maker and now playwright, Alexander Bodin Saphir, whose grandfather’s experience as a young boy in Denmark forms a starting point for his narrative. It is, in fact, just a starting point, since the play explores both more general issues and more personal ones. How do we understand the meaning of a partial truth and when do we come to realize, whatever our level of knowledge, that truth always remains partial. The issue of our approach to knowledge and understanding is at heart of this new play but the result is not a heavy diatribe but a light, sometimes comical incursion into this territory, with some inter-personal drama thrown into the mix.

What we discover about the story is that the actual success of the rescue owes its miraculous outcome in large measure to political forces and surprising individuals and we also have a parallel look into the lives of the four main characters, Abraham, a young boy during the time of the evacuation, his wife, and his childhood friend Lars, who bring along his daughter Eva to an evening gathering celebrating a Jewish holiday. Each of the characters, little by little reveals a personal secret, just as, little by little, the historical facts unravel and reveal their hidden secrets and we see that personal as well as historical truth has hidden layers. Saphir’s play creates a good balance between the historical questions and the personal ones and provides a thought-provoking look at current issues of immigration in a way which suggests something positive rather than the divisive tone of the moment. Based on the enthusiasm of the audience, this play, with its well-chosen cast, will have a very successful run.