BWW Review: WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? at Renaissance Theater - A magisterial Klaus Christian Schreiber as George saves this WOOLF from devouring itself.

BWW Review: WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? at Renaissance Theater - A  magisterial Klaus Christian Schreiber as George saves this WOOLF from devouring itself. Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? Edward Albee's lacerating Diatribe on the power dynamics in a marriage is a dissonant Fugue with many variations. Klaus Christian Schreiber as George, dominates The Renaissance Theater's very commanding production, in a magisterial performance that saves Virginia Woolf from devouring itself. Orchestrating his emotions like Herbert van Karajan with the Vienna Philharmonic, Mr. Schreiber delivers a virtuoso performance that turns this production into a personal triumph. Conveying the wounded heart of an embittered, downtrodden husband, Mr. Schreiber unleashes blistering tsunamis of raw emotion that set the Renaissance stage on fire. Coupled with his imposing stage presence, Mr. Schreiber's George is reason enough to see this production.

Edward Albee and Berlin have a long history together. Albee's first three successes, The Zoo Story, The Death of Bessie Smith and The American Dream all celebrated their World Premieres in Berlin's famed Schiller Theater. Adding to Albee's triumphal march through Berlin is the Renaissance Theater's production of Virginia Woolf, which is a success on many, many levels.

Underlining the demented Circus Freak Show that is George and Martha's twisted, marital Slugfest, Herbert Schäfer and Vasilis Triantafillopoulos' Set Design is a topsy-turvy Funhouse, complete with "peek-a-boo" Blinds and a neon-accented Clown that at different points in the performance "devours" the 4 main characters. Albee's dialogue, peppered with razor-edged barbs, is complemented by a sharply-sloped stage that steers both the actors and the audiences' attention downstage right to the bar. In a story dominated by alcohol consumption, it is a clever design that thrusts the off-kilter universe and constant unease of the four the main characters into sharp relief. Gerhard Littau's light design which, at times, is as brutal as Albee's dialogue, is a matter of taste, not particularly mine.

BWW Review: WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? at Renaissance Theater - A  magisterial Klaus Christian Schreiber as George saves this WOOLF from devouring itself.

Rounding out the agony quartet of Mr. Albee's nightmarish "Marriage-Go-Round" are Emre Aksizolu and Karla Sengteller as Nick and Honey. Mr. Aksizolu exposes the barely-disguised, craven ambition beneath Nick's slick exterior and delivers a powerful performance that easily holds its own with Mr. Schreiber's George. Ms. Sengteller is a talented young actress who occasionally finds flashes of comic brilliance in her dim-witted, but willing Honey.

The character of Martha is a monstrous beast that requires an actress of tremendous ingenuity and personal charm to make Albee's "deathmatch" with George believable. Simone Thomalla has had a long and illustrious career in Germany. Physically, she is perfectly cast. While she is to be commended for the enormous risks that she takes, she was ill-served by her director, Torsten Fischer. The audience was oft treated to the back of Ms. Thomalla's lovely head, as the direction constantly caused her to play upstage. More disturbingly, in contrast to Mr. Schreiber's extremely-nuanced George, Ms. Thomalla's Martha is a one-note harridan. There are a plethora of opportunities for humor, grace, and humanity in Mr. Albee's text. Mr. Fischer and Ms. Thomalla are loath to give Martha any redeeming qualities. After a short while, her guttural braying and screaming lose all effectiveness and, despite her best efforts, she is sidelined by the other actors onstage. Given Ms. Thomalla's long career, this was, obviously, a deliberate choice made by actress and director. However, Ms. Thomalla's Martha was so unpalatable, that the "great love gone terribly wrong" that is the lynchpin of this drama, was mostly absent. Ms. Thomalla certainly has all the fundamentals to be a great Martha. Unfortunately, we will have to wait for another director and production to see the triumph that Ms. Thomalla will eventually have in this role.

Performances of Virginia Woolf will continue until April 29th in the Renaissance Theater. Despite my misgivings about the leading actress' performance, this production is a tribute to the Renaissance Theater's illustrious reputation.

All Photos: Copyright 2018, Barbara Braun / drama-berlin.de



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