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December 2000

Stage Coach

Where to find great small theaters

“Three blind mice, see how they run!” No farmer’s wife wielding a carving knife, but a strangler with a penchant for midnight murder sets the tone for the Blutenburg-Theater’s performance of Agatha Christie’s Mausefalle (The Mousetrap). The mystery by the genre’s inimitable Grande Dame gets a new lease on life under René Siegel-Sorell’s seasoned direction. With a dash of humor and a heavy dose of suspense, the outrageous troupe in the lounge-like Neuhausen theater will serve up this classic fright night through February 2001.
Set in the neighborhood’s prettiest street of the same name, the Blutenburg- Theater is more like an old-time speakeasy than a regular theater venue. The small stage glows like a hearth, and the actors’ irrepressible personalities spread warmth throughout the audience. No seat is far from the action, and the theater’s petite proportions and shabby charm have a very intimate, comfortable feel. During intermission, the spotlight shifts to the long bar draped in eccentric crime-scene paraphernalia. Cleverly named cocktails — the “Sherlock Holmes,” Gänsehaut (Goose Bumps) and others — take up the theme as Agatha Christie peers down from a portrait on the wall.
The story has all the thrill a thriller should have, with more twists and turns than a Coney Island roller coaster. It’s the winter of 1952, and Monkswell Manor is booked out and snowed in. Young proprietors Mollie and Giles Ralston are a bundle of nerves as radio reports of a murderer on the loose set the stage for a disastrous opening night. One by one, the guests arrive. A brood of unexpected boarders quickly turns the little hotel on London’s outskirts into a house of horrors.
The lascivious Signor Paravicini (René Siegel-Sorell) chases skirts while the clean-cut Sergeant Trotter (Heinrich Waldman) announces that a killer is in their midst. Could it be architect poseur Christopher Wren (Christoph Baumann), who whistles the fateful nursery rhyme when the lights go out? Or is it the sharp-tongued Miss Casewell (Stephanie Kellner), a smoldering Uma Thurman look-alike with disarming blue eyes? Eight suspects are caught in an unrelenting riddle, a deadly mousetrap, with no way out — except in a box.
Blutenburg-Theater, Blutenburgstr. 35, U1 Maillingerstr.; performances daily except Monday, weekdays at 20:00 and Sundays at 18:00; box office Mon.-Fri. 17:00-19:30, Sun. 15:00-17:30; Tel. (089) 123 43 00.

As titles go, Rose und Regen, Schwert und Wunde (Rose and Rain, Sword and Wound) is pretty long-winded. Still, it captures the essence of the four love-struck characters in Shakespeare’s erotically charged A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Beat Fäh’s contemporary update of the timeless classic exceeds the tale’s sexy reputation. Director Peter Ender surpasses the Schauburg’s mission to make “high” theater fun for young people. The fast-paced, passionate performance appeals to audiences of all ages, and runs at least through January 2001.
The theater is bare-bones basic in true Shakespearian tradition. The Bard’s own stage, the Globe Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, began as a courtyard with risers for the audience, a simple setting for acting out simple truths. The Schauburg takes the same approach — steep, unfinished wooden risers make the tiny stage into a miniature coliseum. All around the walls are black, and the ceiling is hung with catwalks and lights. The theater is completely empty of stage sets or fine finishings, but you don’t miss them. The result is stunning and stark, a clean slate without decorative distractions.
The value of the minimalist interior is obvious as the first act opens. The plot is complex enough on its own, needing little elaboration other than the players’ own intense concentration. Set in ancient Athens, blond, voluptuous Hermia (Anouk Scherer) plots to elope with her lithe lover, Lysander (Christian Pfeil). She tells her best friend Helena (Berit Menze), a wisp of a woman who is hopelessly in love with brazen Demetrius (Björn Jung), who is hopelessly in love with Hermia. Suffice it to say that Hugh Hefner has nothing on this foursome by the end of the play. Everyone falls in love with everyone else by the time the curtain falls, proving Shakespeare’s point that love is “swift as a shadow, short as any dream…”
The play’s genius emerges in the “Puck” characters, mischievous spirits who are musical accompaniment, chorus and narrator in one — or in this case, two. Robin (Peter Wolter) and Hobgoblin (Thorsten Krohn) are adorably, seductively wicked, torturing the young Greeks with clarinet and electric guitar in a bewildering labyrinth of love. Ender, the frazzled psychiatrist with the electrifying eyes in Tom Tykwer’s film Der Krieger und die Kaiserin, is a star on the rise, and his deft handling of this production is a tribute to his talent.
Schauburg — Theater der Jugend; Franz-Joseph-Str. 47, Tram 27, Elisabethplatz; performances mornings at 10:30 and evenings at 20:00; box office open Tues.-Fri. 14:00-18:00 (by phone Mon.-Fri. 9:30-18:00), Sat. 12:00-17:30; Tel. 23 33 71 71. <<<

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