German theatre is not known for its focus on text. Generally more comfortable with Brechtian Verfremdungseffekte, watching actors fire off witty lines and stumble through well-crafted sentences is a bit like watching a professional football player try his hand at knitting. It’s not impossible, but subtlety can be missing. And so it is with the BE’s production of Wheeler. Written by Tracy Letts (Killer Joe; August: Osage County) and directed by the Ensemble’s artistic director, Oliver Reese, the play follows Wheeler, a 50-year-old failed photographer struggling through a painful divorce and looking for love in all the wrong places. In the #MeToo era, it seems somewhat tone deaf to present a play so cynical and misogynistic, but Letts’ text is humorously engaging, even while the characters remain tragically one-dimensional. As the stage and cast rotate around Wheeler, we root for him to remove his hard shell, but sadly the moment never comes.The entertaining translation is snappy, but it feels like too many jokes or observations about the failing state of America ended up on the cutting room floor. Perhaps the cultural gap between German and American theatre is just too great, but then again, the ennui of white, middle-class males is universal, nicht wahr?
Directed by Oliver Reese, Jan 3, 4, 30, 31, 20:00 (German only)