“Austrians say women are like a good wine, best left to mature in a cellar,” banters Lyubov, the unborn baby who acts as a Greek chorus throughout Marianna Salzmann’s Wir Zöpfe. “I see you like ethnic jokes,” she continues. “Why do the Jews stink? So that the blinds can hate them as well!” Unease in the audience.
The unborn baby gets it: there are “foreigners” and then there are “foreigners”, as pointed out by Nadezhda, the thirtysomething Russian Jewish woman who conceived, then aborted Lyubov with her American on-and-off-boyfriend John.
Nadezhda is the heart of a multicultural Berliner constellation involving, beside John, her mother Vera; her Red Army hero grandfather Konstantin; Imran, the Kurdish flower seller who got hit by neo-Nazis; and Chris, the drug-dealing nurse. Nadezhda and her mother don’t get along, Konstantin is obsessed with his past in the kolkhoz.
Imran is afraid, but he likes Vera, and so does John, who seduces her in the vintage shop he runs, not knowing that she is the mother of his onetime girlfriend. They live at the bottom of a giant rabbit, which is so big that we see only its one leg and breathing belly.
To suggest that the only universal human obsession is to copulate like rabbits? To evoke the life that surrounds us unremittingly? The stage will remain a mystery, a nonsense that looks quite good but doesn’t help when it comes to the Christmas reunion of the characters who seem embarrassed by their own clichéd interpretation of themselves – Nadezhda Googling Christmas to figure out “what it is about, this family reunion”, her grandfather being disrespectful toward the Kurdish guest, the American loser thinking about opening a bar in Kreuzberg.
Gratefulness goes to Lyubov’s cheeky provocations as voiced by the irresistible Dimitrij Schaad, the big guy playing around with the character of the little baby girl who regrets she wasn’t born. His delicious presence doesn’t totally save the piece, but prevents it from remaining just another sitcom-like comedy with a multicultural touch.
WIR ZÖPFE Mar 5, 19, 19:30 | Maxim Gorki Theater, Am Festungsgraben 2, Mitte, S+U-Bhf Friedrichstr. (English surtitles)