Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Theater-Maker

Last Wednesday Red Baron saw Der Theatermacher by Austrian playwright Thomas Bernhard at Freiburg’s City Theater. This comedy written in 1984 belongs to the category Theater of the Absurd.

Bruscon arguing with the innkeeper (©Theater Freiburg)
Staatsschauspieler* Bruscon has collated a comedy The Wheel of History comprising all other comedies according to him. The premiere shall take place at the depraved dance hall of “The Black Stag”, an inn at a small Austrian village called Utzbach. Bruscon's wife, son, and daughter are serving as co-actors.
*a title the government awards to deserved actors

The guy is a creep tyrannizing both the innkeeper and his family. The first one because he wants to eat Frittatensuppe, a bouillon with strips of pancake, in the early afternoon while the innkeeper and his family are busy making blutwurst (blood sausage). When Bruscon asks him, “Do you have your blutwurst day once a week?” the answer is, “ No, but always on Tuesdays.”

Frittatensuppe (©Wikipedia/RobertK)
Bruscon complains to the innkeeper about the sultriness of the room, fears that the floor will break through, and finds the village of Utzbach to be far too small for his "outstanding" work. He then is starting a fuss about the emergency lighting. He requires total darkness for the last scene of his concoction, a condition conflicting with fire protection regulations. Here he is categorical, “Without complete darkness, there will be no performance.” So Bruscon sends the busy innkeeper to fire chief Atwenger asking for a derogation.

During rehearsals of the play with his children, he is driving out their love of acting. In recurring phrases, he alternately cleans up their acting talent, whereas he always highlights himself as a great "state actor" and demands servant behavior of his children. He often gets entangled in contradictory statements without realizing it, saying to his son, "You are my greatest disappointment, you know that, but you never disappointed me, you are my most useful."

The eerie scene where Lady Churchill meets Klemens von Metternich, the Austrian foreign minister at the time of Napoleon, takes half an hour to rehearse, “Naturally, her hat pin must get loose before the hat falls to the ground.”

Bruscon eating Frittatensuppe in the presence of his family (©Theater Freiburg)
Bruscon’s wife, an apparently cold woman ("your mother invests all her talent in her illnesses"), enters the scene for the first time while he is eating the previously ordered Frittatensuppe keeping him quiet for a moment. Later he continuous attacking his wife, but she never speaks a word.

In the end, with Atwenger’s derogation granting a maximum of ten minutes darkness, the theater group is in costumes peeping through the curtain daring covert glances as the spectators arrive. A heavy thunderstorm passes by and, following a great crash of thunder, the audience leaves the dance hall. A lightning has set the parish house on fire. Good for them for the roof above starts to drip leaving Bruscon disappointed on stage in the rain.

I wish you all a Happy* New Year
*my German friends will read “Healthy”

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