Emigranten [Emigrants]

Director: Agnieszka Salamon
Writer: Sławomir Mrożek
Cast: Denise Teipel, Cristina Maria Ablinger
Seen on: 27.3.2017

A (Denise Teipel) and X (Cristina Maria Ablinger) both migrated to the same place and now share a small room. But that’s about everything they have in common: A is an intellectual, a studied woman who had to leave her country of origin for political reasons. X is an uncouth worker, a farmer who left looking for work and a better life. Forced together by circumstances and not particularly fond of each other, A and X spend most of their time going toe to toe with each other. But you can’t go toe to toe without also growing close in a way.

Emigranten is an interesting play and it’s made even more interesting by the production that re-imagines it in a fresh way. It was an insightful and very enjoyable evening of theater.

The play was originally written for young to middle-aged men. Transforming the characters into young women really gave it another twist – and it works extremely well. A and X, both dressed in traditional Austrian Dirndls (and both played by women who have migrated to Austria themselves), are not what you expect to see when you hear the set-up and it makes many points more poignant than had they stuck with the original casting.

The play gives Teipel and Ablinger a lot of room to play, both literally with its minimalist stage design in a wide open space and figuratively with the various facets of their characters providing them with a wide range of acting choices. It’s challenging, especially since they’re on the stage without break, but both are more than up for the task and bring the characters to shiny life.

Through those vivid characters, the audience is lured into a world that is awfully constricted, despite the open spaces on stage. Behind every corner lies a trap or a disappointment. And the few dreams of them that haven’t been shattered yet, A and X relish smashing them for each other, so they can’t even really find solace with each other – even though they’re all they have.

The play gives us not only the question of migration and finding a new place in the world honed to a fine point, but rather boils it down to the question of how we can coexist at all. The only answer the play can give, though, is that the way A and X are forced to do doesn’t seem to be the way to go.

Summarizing: Interesting, smart and engaging – just what theater should be.

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