Power of Love

A Force From Above

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The poster for Yael Ronen's Erotic Crisis at the Gorki Theatre in Berlin.

Relationships, love, romantic entanglements – there are few places that we see these themes played out more clearly than on stage. Theaters in Germany are running productions this fall that ask who to love, and when, and most importantly, how?

One of the last refuges, people say, is the institution of marriage. At Munich’s Residenztheater, theater goers can watch Edward Albee’s famous “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?” depicting verbal slaughter at a dinner party. It was excellently staged by Jürgen Gosch at Berlin’s Deutsches Theater in Berlin in 2004, but the new version promises great things.

The Residenz Theater’s director Martin Kušej, who works with opera as well as theater, lets his actors throw themselves at the play, and bring out with brutal clarity what Mr. Albee proposed in an interview with Catch magazine in 1981: relationships are a way to attack.

At the Gorki Theatre in Berlin, which won Germany’s prestigious Theatre of the Year Award in 2014, Yael Ronen explores the nuances of modern sexual crises in her more risqué play “Erotic Crisis.”

 

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Mr. Albee’s “Who is Afraid of Virgina Woolf” staged at Munich’s Residenztheater. Source: Andreas Pohlmann

 

The play is wildly entertaining – the actors are all naked or barely clothed in some scenes – as they narrate their erotic dilemmas to comic effect. The protagonists are two couples and a single woman. Everyone begins by claiming they have fulfilling sex lives; by the end it’s clear that nobody does. Each character is wracked by their own personal crisis. A character called Jan, played by Thomas Wodianka, has a relationship without any sex. By the end of the play, he and his girlfriend decide to split up; their physical alienation extends to the emotional arena. The other couple have sex but are still unfulfilled. They re-evaluate their relationship when Anastasia Gubareva, who plays the role of the dissatisfied girlfriend, forces all the things that remain unsaid between the couple into the open. Their relationship is at a breaking point but they manage to find each other again after a sexual encounter with the only character not in a relationship played by Mareyke Beykirch.

Yael Ronen, the director of Israeli descent, was much celebrated in Germany last season with the play “Common Ground”, which also played recently at Munich’s Residenztheater.

Hamburg theaters are also looking at human relationships.

The Thalia theater is staging the ultimate love story: Romeo and Juliet. It is a bright, energetic production of the story of familial feuding, unlucky coincidences, and a brief union followed by suicide. This story of love that is unconditional and doomed is popular with young viewers. They liked the fighting scenes, the casting – 20 girls play Juliet, 20 boys play Romeo – the music mash ups and the dance. The play remains a classic but the production is unconventional; there is no balcony for the famed balcony scene; for the night the lovers spend together, two actors simply stand opposite one another, generating a more powerful intensity. One viewer called the staging breathtaking, with strings of fairy lights as a backdrop to the drama of young love, posing the contrast between the youngsters’ effervescence and the seriousness of their passion.

Frankie Goes To Hollywood sang “Purge the soul, make love your goal” in “The Power of Love” in 1984. Germany’s theaters seem to have done it this season.

 

Sarah Mewes and Allison Williams are editors at Handelsblatt Global Edition. To contact the authors: mewes@handelsblatt.com and williams@handelsblatt.com

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