There is a difference between fighting and arguing. At least that’s what playwright Joshua Harmon told his cast of “Prayer for the French Republic.” According to actor Betsy Aidem, fighting is a battle during which all bets are off — where integrity comes second to winning. “With arguing,” she explained, “you’re going to go at somebody with the full force of your passion, your intellect, your belief system, your value system.” Using argument, Harmon explores profound personal and communal questions and creates a sweeping family epic in his latest Broadway outing.
“Prayer for the French Republic” offers the story of the Paris-based Salomon family circa 1944-1946 and their descendants, the Benhamou family (headed by matriarch Marcelle, played by Aidem) in 2016.
As the Nazis march into France, Adolphe and Irma Salomon are saved from deportation and live out the war in their Paris apartment. But when their son Lucien and grandson Pierre are liberated and come home, they push each other to the brink — Irma begging for details and Lucien not wanting to relive his horrors. Meanwhile, 60 years in the future, Pierre’s grandson (Marcelle’s son) is attacked while wearing a kippah, and the family tears at each other, flailing through survivalist instincts, as they wonder whether to stay in Paris or leave. And if they leave, where do they go?