Tales from the Vienna Woods (Geschichten aus dem Wiener Wald)

by Ödön von Hórvath
Dramaturgy Sonja Anders
Premiere March 29, 2013
Katrin WichmannMarianne
Andreas DöhlerAlfred
Almut ZilcherValerie
Michael GerberKing of Magic
Peter MoltzenOskar
Barbara SchnitzlerThe mother
Simone von ZglinickiThe grandmother
Moritz GroveEric
Harald Baumgartnercavalry captain
Henning VogtHavlitschek
Jürgen HuthThe Mister
Georgia LautnerIda
Marianne
Valerie
King of Magic
The mother
The grandmother
cavalry captain
Havlitschek
The Mister
Süddeutsche Zeitung
Peter Laudenbach, 03.04.2013
Thalheimer recounts a tragedy, but with such a fine and nuanced touch that a lovely lightness to the acting emerges and even moments of laconic comedy. (…) Thalheimer creates great art this evening. (…) Thalheimer delves into people, albeit brutalised, damaged, psychologically crippled people during the interwar period. What accounts for the striking stature of this production is the fact that he doesn’t derisively portray that damage as a caricature of middle-class complacency with the self-righteousness of a later generation, but instead illuminates it objectively with the greatest possible sobriety. Here Thalheimer, usually a director who favours brutal images and expressive exaggeration, derives pathetic horror from the brutality of the facts. This production seems to say, free of illusions, ‘That’s the way people are.’ (…)

The way Wichmann and Döhler, two of our favourite actors in the DT ensemble, play this love and its downfall is a small sensation, particularly touching in its reserve. Döhler doesn’t depict the ne’er do well in his cheap suit as a shooting gallery figure, but as an imperturbable survivor. Wichmann sentimentalises neither the moment of falling in love with romantic spasms nor the humiliation of its decline with self-pity, instead registering them almost impersonally: that’s simply the way her life is going. Even Moltzen, as the butcher, whose complete brutalisation virtually invites caricature, and Almut Zilcher as Valerie, the kiosk owner and lower-middle-class vamp with a string of men behind her, maintain a fine balance and don’t take the easy path of denouncing their characters.
Thalheimer recounts a tragedy, but with such a fine and nuanced touch that a lovely lightness to the acting emerges and even moments of laconic comedy. (…) Thalheimer creates great art this evening. (…) Thalheimer delves into people, albeit brutalised, damaged, psychologically crippled people during the interwar period. What accounts for the striking stature of this production is the fact that he doesn’t derisively portray that damage as a caricature of middle-class complacency with the self-righteousness of a later generation, but instead illuminates it objectively with the greatest possible sobriety. Here Thalheimer, usually a director who favours brutal images and expressive exaggeration, derives pathetic horror from the brutality of the facts. This production seems to say, free of illusions, ‘That’s the way people are.’ (…)

The way Wichmann and Döhler, two of our favourite actors in the DT ensemble, play this love and its downfall is a small sensation, particularly touching in its reserve. Döhler doesn’t depict the ne’er do well in his cheap suit as a shooting gallery figure, but as an imperturbable survivor. Wichmann sentimentalises neither the moment of falling in love with romantic spasms nor the humiliation of its decline with self-pity, instead registering them almost impersonally: that’s simply the way her life is going. Even Moltzen, as the butcher, whose complete brutalisation virtually invites caricature, and Almut Zilcher as Valerie, the kiosk owner and lower-middle-class vamp with a string of men behind her, maintain a fine balance and don’t take the easy path of denouncing their characters.
Der Tagesspiegel
Christine Wahl, 31.03.2013
Over two hours without an interval, Michael Thalheimer and his first-class ensemble carve out one miniature tragedy after another from Ödon von Horváth’s Tales from the Vienna Woods. The fact that these individual dramas start out with near comedy sharpens the tragedy of their outcomes all the more. (...) Thalheimer’s consistency in staging this ‘folk play’ in an empty space, with almost no resort to technical effects (the programme actually lists no set designer), leaves the performers no place to hide. And they don’t need any. The way they master the interplay between stylisation and individual tragedy, switch from abstract character sketches to the naturalistic and move from irony to the depths is simply magnificent.

Almut Zilcher’s Valerie superbly personifies the kind of woman who, in every situation, is a little too loud, too vulgar and ultimately too soft-hearted –and whose shrill and embarrassing performance simply covers up her utter disappointment in life. Andreas Döhler’s perfectly-judged, lackadaisical Alfred (…) displays his brutal insignificance so skilfully that he seems actually tobelieve his own boundless self-pity. The barking barracks-room voice of MichaelGerber’s Zauberkönig, Marianne’s father, breaks almost pitifully in the end.And the way Katrin Wichmann’s Marianne strips, taking off her bra in a cheapshower of gold while singing tunelessly and weakly, is nearly unbearable in itsbrutal precision and bleakness.
Over two hours without an interval, Michael Thalheimer and his first-class ensemble carve out one miniature tragedy after another from Ödon von Horváth’s Tales from the Vienna Woods. The fact that these individual dramas start out with near comedy sharpens the tragedy of their outcomes all the more. (...) Thalheimer’s consistency in staging this ‘folk play’ in an empty space, with almost no resort to technical effects (the programme actually lists no set designer), leaves the performers no place to hide. And they don’t need any. The way they master the interplay between stylisation and individual tragedy, switch from abstract character sketches to the naturalistic and move from irony to the depths is simply magnificent.

Almut Zilcher’s Valerie superbly personifies the kind of woman who, in every situation, is a little too loud, too vulgar and ultimately too soft-hearted –and whose shrill and embarrassing performance simply covers up her utter disappointment in life. Andreas Döhler’s perfectly-judged, lackadaisical Alfred (…) displays his brutal insignificance so skilfully that he seems actually tobelieve his own boundless self-pity. The barking barracks-room voice of MichaelGerber’s Zauberkönig, Marianne’s father, breaks almost pitifully in the end.And the way Katrin Wichmann’s Marianne strips, taking off her bra in a cheapshower of gold while singing tunelessly and weakly, is nearly unbearable in itsbrutal precision and bleakness.
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Irene Bazinger, 02.04.2013
Loud and mercilessly, a fairly martial interpretation of The Blue Danube Waltz rings out, conducted by Herbert von Karajan. The audience whispers in surprise. On stage, inertia prevails. ‘Look at this music!’ demands Thalheimer, the most radical and shrewdest of all present-day theatre purists. (…) One can tell how these people, trapped in their prejudices, desires and needs, sense the new era (the play had its original premiere at the Deutsches Theater in 1931) and become nervous, fearful, desperate with wishful thinking. Only Marianne, whose happiness is already crumbling as she reaches for it, doesn’t fit in. The brilliant Katrin Wichmann plays her as madly hopeful and failing stunningly, a hapless fairy tale girl, crushed by all the world’s millstones. Michael Thalheimer’s heart-wrenchingly austere production doesn’t say whether that is good or bad. It subjects all of them, as they come out of the black no-man’s-land onto the stage apron and bombard each other with Horváth’s nastily precise lines, to the oppressive shallowness of their authenticity. (…) And when, at the end of this perfectly structured, analytical, masterfully successful production, the Blue Danube Waltz sounds again, the notes are different from the way they were at the beginning. And so are we. Loud and mercilessly, a fairly martial interpretation of The Blue Danube Waltz rings out, conducted by Herbert von Karajan. The audience whispers in surprise. On stage, inertia prevails. ‘Look at this music!’ demands Thalheimer, the most radical and shrewdest of all present-day theatre purists. (…) One can tell how these people, trapped in their prejudices, desires and needs, sense the new era (the play had its original premiere at the Deutsches Theater in 1931) and become nervous, fearful, desperate with wishful thinking. Only Marianne, whose happiness is already crumbling as she reaches for it, doesn’t fit in. The brilliant Katrin Wichmann plays her as madly hopeful and failing stunningly, a hapless fairy tale girl, crushed by all the world’s millstones. Michael Thalheimer’s heart-wrenchingly austere production doesn’t say whether that is good or bad. It subjects all of them, as they come out of the black no-man’s-land onto the stage apron and bombard each other with Horváth’s nastily precise lines, to the oppressive shallowness of their authenticity. (…) And when, at the end of this perfectly structured, analytical, masterfully successful production, the Blue Danube Waltz sounds again, the notes are different from the way they were at the beginning. And so are we.
Neues Deutschland
Hans-Dieter Schütt, 02.04.2013
An ex-hibition. An exemplary show of mankind destroyed in adversity, of mankind, which notoriously wreaks destruction. Without a hint of mercy for psychological detours, plain talking takes place here. It strips the play to the bone, just as the butcher Oskar would a sow. From far upstage in the semi-darkness (the production needs no set designer), every figure is sent to the front or, rather, pushed to the front, and each of these characters has a distinctive way of sauntering, stamping, slinking, saluting or stumbling. Here proximity means gawping at each other’s misery, smirkingly and furtively. It’s as if the production wanted to organise nothing but revulsion in all those it shows as so obsequious and with all that makes them so obvious. What do we have to do with them? That man over there with me? Or this woman with you? That is the constraint of theatre. It shuts everyone in one room because of this question. And that is the liberty of theatre: we can each remain alone with the answer. Art’s good fortune lies in the talks we have with ourselves afterwards – good fortune or misfortune. An ex-hibition. An exemplary show of mankind destroyed in adversity, of mankind, which notoriously wreaks destruction. Without a hint of mercy for psychological detours, plain talking takes place here. It strips the play to the bone, just as the butcher Oskar would a sow. From far upstage in the semi-darkness (the production needs no set designer), every figure is sent to the front or, rather, pushed to the front, and each of these characters has a distinctive way of sauntering, stamping, slinking, saluting or stumbling. Here proximity means gawping at each other’s misery, smirkingly and furtively. It’s as if the production wanted to organise nothing but revulsion in all those it shows as so obsequious and with all that makes them so obvious. What do we have to do with them? That man over there with me? Or this woman with you? That is the constraint of theatre. It shuts everyone in one room because of this question. And that is the liberty of theatre: we can each remain alone with the answer. Art’s good fortune lies in the talks we have with ourselves afterwards – good fortune or misfortune.
Deutschlandfunk, Kultur heute
Hartmut Krug, 30.03.2013
Michael Thalheimer has succeeded in staging Tales from the Vienna Woods as a timeless fairy tale. He shows the ‘eternal struggle between the conscious and the subconscious’, which Horváth described as the basic dramatic theme of all his plays, with great sensual force. (…) All are seeking order, security and perhaps love as well. In doing so they are damaged and deformed, internally and externally. Even if they’re wicked and selfish in relationships, we feel for their failure. Because this ensemble, excellent down to the tiniest role, shows us such lively and comic people, whose wishes and contradictions seem extremely human. Michael Thalheimer has succeeded in staging Tales from the Vienna Woods as a timeless fairy tale. He shows the ‘eternal struggle between the conscious and the subconscious’, which Horváth described as the basic dramatic theme of all his plays, with great sensual force. (…) All are seeking order, security and perhaps love as well. In doing so they are damaged and deformed, internally and externally. Even if they’re wicked and selfish in relationships, we feel for their failure. Because this ensemble, excellent down to the tiniest role, shows us such lively and comic people, whose wishes and contradictions seem extremely human.
nachtkritik.de
Christian Rakow, 30.03.2013
What a beginning! Somewhere at the back, in the deep, dark emptiness of the stage, shadowy figures crouch. But in the auditorium the light goes on, bit by bit, until the Deutsches Theater’s huge chandelier glows brightly. For a long, comic moment Michael Thalheimer remains poised on the threshold that seems to divide us from the chauvinistic, lower-middle-class milieu of Ödön von Horváth’s Tales from the Vienna Woods, the threshold between the world of the audience and that of the stage: here we are in the brightness, children of the sun, primed intellectually for the holiday premiere in the theatre where Horváth’s folk play celebrated its first premiere in 1931, and there they are in the dark: the unseen, Horváth’s coarse characters with their spewed-out suburban German and their musty visions of life. But then the light moves from the auditorium to the stage, and nothing is black and white anymore, nothing distinct. ‘A man has light and dark sides: that’s normal,’ says the devious dandy Alfred. And this evening Thalheimer will penetrate them all, down to the last nuance, both the dark and the light sides. I, at least, cannot remember an evening on which Thalheimer, the great discoverer of gravity in German directors’ theatre, has ever staged such a light, iridescent, comedic farandole.
(…)
The gifted DT ensemble, which has recently so often been mere promise, is now all fulfilment, down to the smallest incidental role. They enter as clowns and exit as humans. The cardboard masks that Thalheimer has given them in their final scene still exude an amateurish honesty. (…) ‘Look at the stars – they’ll still hang up there when we’re deep under the earth,’ Marianne says, as she falls in love with Alfred and her downfall approaches. A line that speaks to eternity; theatrical veracity. It’s a long time since we’ve been down so deep, yet so near the stars.
What a beginning! Somewhere at the back, in the deep, dark emptiness of the stage, shadowy figures crouch. But in the auditorium the light goes on, bit by bit, until the Deutsches Theater’s huge chandelier glows brightly. For a long, comic moment Michael Thalheimer remains poised on the threshold that seems to divide us from the chauvinistic, lower-middle-class milieu of Ödön von Horváth’s Tales from the Vienna Woods, the threshold between the world of the audience and that of the stage: here we are in the brightness, children of the sun, primed intellectually for the holiday premiere in the theatre where Horváth’s folk play celebrated its first premiere in 1931, and there they are in the dark: the unseen, Horváth’s coarse characters with their spewed-out suburban German and their musty visions of life. But then the light moves from the auditorium to the stage, and nothing is black and white anymore, nothing distinct. ‘A man has light and dark sides: that’s normal,’ says the devious dandy Alfred. And this evening Thalheimer will penetrate them all, down to the last nuance, both the dark and the light sides. I, at least, cannot remember an evening on which Thalheimer, the great discoverer of gravity in German directors’ theatre, has ever staged such a light, iridescent, comedic farandole.
(…)
The gifted DT ensemble, which has recently so often been mere promise, is now all fulfilment, down to the smallest incidental role. They enter as clowns and exit as humans. The cardboard masks that Thalheimer has given them in their final scene still exude an amateurish honesty. (…) ‘Look at the stars – they’ll still hang up there when we’re deep under the earth,’ Marianne says, as she falls in love with Alfred and her downfall approaches. A line that speaks to eternity; theatrical veracity. It’s a long time since we’ve been down so deep, yet so near the stars.

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With English surtitles
Deutsches Theater
20.00 - 21.30
sold out
perh. remaining tickets at evening box office
With English surtitles
by Elfriede Jelinek
Director: Martin Laberenz
Kammerspiele
20.00 - 21.30
19.30 Introduction – Saal