Nachtland Magazine – a provocative dive into art history | Theater

AArrive early and you’ll see the actors putting away a pile of trash: Nicola and Philipp sorting through their deceased father’s belongings. When the play begins, the stage is clear – except for a watercolor hidden in the attic. It’s a tame sepia view of a church with a signature that looks an awful lot like “A.” Hitler.”THE Hitler?” gasps Nicola’s husband. Well yes.

In Marius von Mayenburg’s eye-catching 2022 play, set in Berlin, the feuding siblings (Dorothea Myer-Bennett and John Heffernan, both terribly evil) and their spouses are bewildered. They call in an expert (an impeccable arthouse Jane Horrocks) whose grandfather was Hitler’s curator. She finds a mysterious buyer (Angus Wright) and his valuation makes it easier to slide into lies and dirt. The family boasted that they were anti-Nazi (“notably for aesthetic reasons”), but now they must reinforce the painting’s history. Heffernan’s faded T-shirt says “Faust” – he’s selling his soul without a fight.

Crisp…Jane Horrocks in Nachtland. Photography: Ellie Kurttz

Philipp’s Jewish wife Judith (a bemused and offended Jenna Augen) trips everyone into the moral quagmire, awkwardly discussing other aspects of provenance. “Can we not talk about art without mentioning the Holocaust! » Nicola harrumphs, but that’s not possible. Anna Fleischle’s design repairs the house with bricks, tiles, blind windows – layers of history and denial.

Patrick Marber’s punchy direction often places the characters in square formation, pivoting to rumble in all directions. Characters intermittently turn toward us to tell, irritably, or are pinned down in Richard Howell’s tight circles of light. Having started with quarrels, the play becomes stranger. Nicola’s husband (Gunnar Cauthery), stricken with tetanus and putrid by plum jam, embodies the revealing heart of national guilt. No one can discuss history without becoming anti-Semitic. History will not remain in the past.

Nachtland is not a real word in German, but suggests something like a nocturnal landscape, a dark place. In Maja Zade’s spicy translation and with an excellent cast, everything is, as the buyer says, “pretty hot pepper.” Von Mayenburg doesn’t go deep, but he attacks the sore spots of modern Germany with defiant vigor.

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