Male Deliveries

The Pearl polishes up a Restoration gem; Germans at BAM stifle a masterpiece

No prig, that Farquhar: Botchan, Cover, and Cuskern in The Constant Couple
Gregory Costanza
No prig, that Farquhar: Botchan, Cover, and Cuskern in The Constant Couple

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The Constant Couple
By George Farquhar
Pearl Theatre
80 St. Marks Place
212-598-9802

Lulu
By Frank Wedekind
BAM Harvey Theater
(Closed)

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His charm would probably cut no ice, however, with the German director Michael Thalheimer, whose production of Wedekind's Lulu, from the Thalia Theater, Hamburg, was briefly seen at BAM last week. Thalheimer is one of the more intelligent of the anti-artists who currently ruin great plays for the joy of artsy pedants and the misery of German audiences, long inured to obedient suffering. Posing his actors starkly on a bare stage against a brightly lit backdrop, Thalheimer turned Wedekind's astonishing tragicomic fable about the vagaries of sexual desire in a repressive society into a monochrome, minimalist sermon telling us—big news—that all men, when they see a beautiful woman, have only one thing on their minds. He thus missed, in true German fashion, Wedekind's central joke, which is that all men see the one thing on their minds differently. Wedekind shows us each of Lulu's lovers imagining her as a different person, and all getting bollixed up when they fail to accept her as herself; Thalheimer turned this into a tiresome parade of one guy after another with his pants down around his ankles, reminiscent of Pina Bausch's Seven Deadly Sins, which replaced the original scenario's heptalogue with the single, endlessly repeated sin of male oppressor against female victim. (A colleague quipped that he was bored by six of the sins but admired "Pina's 'Envy'.") Thalheimer's capable actors kept giving off hints that he and they clearly knew better, but his conceptual rigidity kept stifling the richness that you could hear, when they spoke understandably, in Wedekind's wondrous text.

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