Hermann und Dorothea [Hermann and Dorothea]

Hermann und Dorothea
Director: Alfred Kirchner
Writer: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Cast: Maria Happel, Martin Schwab
Seen on: 12.3.2017

Hermann falls in love with Dorothea, a young refugee who is passing through his village. Since Hermann comes from a rather rich family and Dorothea is penniless, he can’t simply marry her. To make sure that she is of sound character, the Priest and the Apothecary ask for character witnesses. When those are overwhelmingly positive, Hermann brings Dorothea home – introducing her as a maid though.

Hermann and Dorothea is not a play but a poem and Kirchner decided not to adapt it as a play, either, but to have Happel and Schwab dramatically read the poem instead. I think, I would have appreciated a drama version of it a little more.

I was not familiar with Hermann and Dorothea before going into the play and since it was part of my theater subscription, I didn’t really read up on the production beforehand, so I was rather surprised by the fact that it was a dramatic reading. Had I known, I might have read the poem beforehand, because I’m not good with having things read to me. I can barely take in the language and that bothers me. (Although given my dislike for Goethe, I probably wouldn’t have read it anyway.)

But no matter what I would have done, the fact of the matter is that I went into the reading unprepared and it wasn’t the right thing to go in unprepared. Which is a pity, because personally I think that works of art should speak for themselves (although context knowledge can very much improve your understanding and enjoyment of them). It’s a matter of accessibility.

Disregarding that, there was much to like about the reading. I liked the calm, dark blue stage design that was as evoking as it was simple. Happel and Schwab read well and I liked the idea of including certain quotes, projected on a screen behind the actors. But I didn’t know how to tie those things together and connect them to the poem being read.

And the poem itself didn’t start to resonate with me. In times where we are constantly talking about refugees, it could have been rather timely, but I never found my way into the story and its characters. Be it because of the delivery or because of the poem itself. But without the emotional connection, it was a rather boring evening.

Summarizing: Interesting but ultimately fell flat.

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