Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sternheim Mash-up

I have to admit, it was with more than a little trepidation that I approached David Mouchtar-Samorai's adaptation that brings together Carl Sternheim's comedies Die Hose and Burger Schippel. (In the U.S., Die Hose is better known by the title of Steve Martin's adaptation, The Underpants.)

The adaptation alternates between scenes from the two plays, with each actor taking on parallel roles. So for instance, the guy playing Theobald Maske plays Paul Schippel, and the woman playing Maske's put-upon wife also plays Thekla Hicketier in the scenes from Burger Schippel.

Towards the end of the play, the characters start to blend together. At the end, when Schippel is crowned with laurels and welcomed into respectable society, he is addressed as Herr Maske. The conceit seemed unnecessary to me, but the actors definitely pulled it off.

Adding to the production was a superb set that was filled with photographs, some in negative, of various respectable members of society from throughout history. This served as a constant reminder of the world into which Maske and Schippel wanted to enter. At the rear of the stage was a circular door through which actors could make exits and entrances.

This was a very earnest production, showing the true human emotions behind Sternheim's characters. That sometimes took away a few laughs, but it made up for it in emotional intensity.