This month, head to the Deutsches Theater’s smaller stages – the 230-seat Kammerspiele and the 80-seat Box – for a trio of relevant works.
Between the Lines. Briefe aus Bissau
A frequent charge against German Regietheater is that its actors often scream at each other for no apparent reason. Between the Lines is the antidote for that ailment. In this quietly melancholy epistolary drama, filmmaker Katja Kunt investigates the life of her aunt, who, in the 1980s, left East Germany to marry and live with a man from the small West African nation of Guinea-Bissau. A collaboration between directorial duo Auftrag:Lorey and Kunt herself, the production’s secret weapon is musician Djelifily Sako playing the kora, a West African instrument that resembles the love child of a diminutive harp and a clinically obese banjo. One could probably read a software manual over kora music and still achieve a lyrical mood, but the emotion is heightened by the longing, alienation and wonder so eloquently expressed in the letters of Kunt and her aunt.
At Box, no surtitles | Dec 2, 27, 19:30; Dec 3, 19:00
It Can’t Happen Here
Sinclair Lewis’ 1935 satirical novel imagined demagogue Buzz Windrip rising to defeat President Roosevelt on a campaign of economic candy slogans, patriotic bluster, and “traditional values”. Director Christopher Rüping has adapted the novel to evoke today’s demagoguery on both sides of the pond, mixing Trumpian riffs with references to European calls for guaranteed basic income. Felix Goeser fuels the production’s strong start with his front-facing, charismatic performance as a campaigning Windrip, but the energy subsides in scenes hewing closer to the novel’s plot in which Windrip’s Secretary of State seizes power only to be overthrown himself in a military putsch.
At Kammerspiele, English surtitles | Dec 1, 20:30; Dec 10, 19:30; Dec 29, 20:00
It would be hard to find a better moment to stage an adaptation of the radical feminist SCUM Manifesto by Valerie Solanas, whose anti-male diatribe became famous after she shot Andy Warhol in 1968. Directors Tom Kühnel and Jürgen Kuttner made the questionable decision, however, to cast three men as the central performers, reciting excerpts of the manifesto in Marilyn Monroe drag costumes. What saves the evening is that the men at least recite the lines in earnest. There’s little attempt to ridicule Solanas, which would have been easy given the violent fanaticism of her rhetoric. But if the three parts had been cast as women or even consisted of a mixed-gender trio, say, including a transgender performer, the evening could have highlighted the precariousness of gender stereotypes while voicing a more fullthroated, cathartic rage at the indignities that Solanas – and now, the #MeToo accusers – have suffered at the hands of a gender “obsessed,” as Solanas says, “with screwing”.
At Kammerspiele, English surtitles | Dec 7, 12; 19:30; Dec 31, 19:00