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Italian nights bleed into golden dawns: Italienische Nacht

Is Thomas Ostermeier's newest a smash? Read our review and then decide whether to check it out Jan 4-8 at the Schaubühne.

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Photo by Arno Declair

Since its cancelled premiere in March, much has happened to bolster the topicality of a play about the left’s failure to tackle the rise of the right, as reading any newspaper will make painfully clear. Horváth’s 1931 play frames factional infighting as a cause of political paralysis. Ostermeier’s adaption is set in the Gasthaus Lehninger – a revolving pub that is as timeless as it is realistic. But where rotating stages often come across as gimmicky, here it brings the action to life. Swapping traditional fascists for slicker neo-Nazis that resemble the alt-right identarian movement more than the bomber jackets of the NSU, Ostermeier makes an astute point: while the beer-bellied SPD sport antiquated fedoras and bland jean-jacket combos, the fascists are hip, with charming far-right poster boy Laurenz Laufenberg donning a Fred Perry polo, New Balance trainers and a blond undercut. Though Ostermeier fails to flesh out their toxic ideology, he does present them as a sexy antidote to an other-wise stale Dorfkneipe ambience. Ostermeier’s message is as important as it is blindingly obvious: the play leaves little room for interpretation and is at times comically overindulgent in getting its point across. After a slew of recent successes on stage, Italienische Nacht struggles to hit the high bar Ostermeier has set for himself. But faced with our current political reality, a night down his pub leaves us with a historical hangover – and a bitter taste in the mouth.

Directed by Thomas Ostermeier, Jan 4-8 (English surtitles on Jan 7)