Der Besuch der alten Dame [The Visit]

Der Besuch der alten Dame
Director: Frank Hoffmann
Writer: Friedrich Dürrenmatt
Cast: Maria Happel, Rolf Mautz, Hans Dieter Knebel, Burghart Klaußner, Petra Morzé, Roland Koch, Dietmar König, Daniel Jesch, Marcus Kiepe, Michael Abendroth, Harald Retschitzegger, Franz Schöffthaler, Peter Nitsche
Seen on: 1.10.2018

Claire Zachanassian (Maria Happel) returns to her hometown of Güllen for the first time in decades. She had to leave the town in shame, betrayed by her lover. But she rose from the ashes, married rich and now she has a plan to get revenge on everybody who ever wronged her – especially her ex.

Der Besuch der alten Dame seems to be a good play, but this production of it really didn’t work. They managed to have a comedy where I could see the funny bits and yet I never laughed. That’s really a problem.

The play is interesting and a very pointed take on how people will give the appearance of morality to their motives, when really, it’s all about the money. It does so with a sardonic sense of humor that I would have appreciated, I’m pretty sure, in any other production.

But something went very wrong here. The production had the worst comedic timing. I have never seen so many jokes fall flat so consistently. It was like there was a fun-sucking abyss between the stage and the audience. And at the end it got so loud, that I actually had to cover my ears – a first for me at the theater.

Generally, the production was very Burgtheater in style and that just didn’t seem to fit the play. The stage design was playing Captain Obvious – as layer after layer is removed, we get to see more and more of the backstage area. It’s too on the nose to work as a metaphor.

When the play ended, the cheers were finite. But since Austrian theaters – contrary to English ones, where there’s short polite applause while the actors bow once and then everybody goes home – have the actors come out and bow as many times as they can while the audience claps and the audience claps as long as it deems appropriate, it led to the awkward situation that the actors came out one more time (because that’s usually how often they could come out) when the audience had already stopped clapping, finishing the night off with yet another instance of very bad timing.

Summarizing: Didn’t work.

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