Lucerne theater troupe Aeternam makes entertaining entertainment, but it’s not just the female characters that are irritating
On Wednesday, the new play “The Cosmonaut’s Last Letter to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union” by the Lucerne theater group Aeternam premiered at the Kleintheater.
Filter coffee into a plastic bowl away, and a record player, also made of white plastic, spins its rounds and crackles with spherical pop music. Officer Oleg is sitting there in front of a sheer curtain of cloth in brown overalls, thinking to himself and then dictating to the tape recorder: “Logbook Harmony 114: You forgot us.”
Oleg and Casimir are Soviet cosmonauts who have been stranded in space for decades, constantly orbiting the Earth that has forgotten them and advancing as communism collapses. We’re looking down on this Earth through a curtain of fabric over a split video projection. There Vivian, whose husband Keith is having an affair with Nastasja, a sexy dancer who is Kasimir’s daughter and dreams of going to the movies. When Keith goes missing, Vivian tries to find him. And along the way, he connects with Bernard, a former rocket scientist who believes someone from outer space is trying to contact us.
network of meetings and contacts
These are just a few of the threads in Greig’s 1999 play – a complex web of chance encounters, connections lost and found, and failed attempts at communication. It’s set in a world of hotel rooms, anonymous bars, and underground clubs where everyone wants something they can’t have.
Even the original artwork is one of the plays you’d rather read than see on stage. Because the build and the way everything jumps from one story to the next makes it difficult to work with any character.
The Aeternam Theater Group production (Director: Sophie Stierle, Drama: Christoph Fellmann) comes with great acting and staging design and gives you some of the great ideas and theatrical tricks that the hybrid form of theater and video offers, but is still quite hesitant about what it really wants to be as a piece and as a story. Garbage with a local flavor? Sarcastic comment on the end of the story? False drama?
Often the piece is very close to kitsch. For example, when the voices of the characters on stage and the movie start to overlap and they sing a pop song almost in sync. So, not far from a mediocre Swiss TV movie production that flashes across screens on Sunday evenings and delivers half-hearted feelings. Although Suspect’s Downfall breaks here and there with sarcastic interrupts, silly dialogue, and trashy visual effects – it’s simply not consistent enough.
The female characters in this piece leave the viewer in a similar state of bewilderment. For women, there are exactly three roles in the play: an erotic dancer, a masturbator, and an unfaithful wife, who takes care of needy old men for both professional and unprofessional reasons. Although these traits seem somewhat silly, they are not constantly flattered, not caused trouble, and not overused.
In general, this play is often about women, who remain as inaccessible as the images of women on spy playing cards that Oleg and Casimir have to do for their sexual desires. But as a viewer, you don’t really feel the sadness that is likely to be present in such a setting, and you really can’t laugh heartily. One wonders how, as a theatrical group that claims to address contemporary issues and themes, they can stop at female characters in this way.
in the void
Somehow it also speaks for itself that the references in the piece stop at Moscow, the Soviet Union, America, trash TV, and mainstream pop of the 1980s and 1990s. It’s fun here and there and offers short-term entertainment, but nothing more than that. The longer the piece ran and escalated into a variety of casts of characters and scenarios, the more it fell into a state of disconcerting indecision.
Half an hour later, I understood the article, and after that there wasn’t much to come out of new ideas or interesting stories. After an hour and a half with an abrupt ending, it looks as if someone had to pull the plug for the magical 90 minutes that held the audience in: movie, off, and the end. As a spectator, you sit somewhat bewildered with an unmotivated anecdote behind you—in a void, you might say.
Other shows: Thursday, January 12th to Saturday, January 14th, every 8 pm, Kleintheater Luzern; www.kleintheater.ch.
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