The play is set in a Jewish ghetto in Vilna, Poland, in 1931. A group of amateur actors are rehearsing a new play, written by their ambitious young director, about Alfred Dreyfus, the French-Jewish military officer whose persecution was opposed by the eloquent Emile Zola. The performers in this play-within-a-play are all good, kindly people, but they have difficulty in accepting the relevance of the "Dreyfus Affair" to their own situation and, furthermore, are preoccupied with the concerns of their personal lives—which leads to a series of very funny and often ironic exchanges with their high-strung director. However their placid conviction that anti-Semitism could not exist in the Poland of their time is abruptly shattered when drunken hoodlums break into their rehearsal and attack them—after which the project is abandoned and the shaken cast members flee, one to the Soviet Union, others to England and Germany, but all now deeply disturbed and apprehensive—and nervously facing a future clouded by the menacing spectre of Nazi Germany.
A long-run success in Paris, this wry and warm-hearted comedy was later presented on Broadway in a star-studded production directed by Mr. Kanin. While concerned with the serious subject of anti-Semitism, the play uses humor and irony to underscore its timeless message. "It is aimed to make you cry a little, laugh a lot and go away agreeing that it's hard to be a Jew." —NY Times. "The play is warm, kindly, amusing and very often deeply moving." —Boston Herald Advertiser. "…a memorable evening of theatre." —Boston Globe.