by Arthur Schnitzler
This fin de siecle comedy of sexual manners follows a very strict formula. X meets Y, they chat, Y says it’s too bright/dark to have sex, and besides they need to get home. Then X has sex with Y anyway, they chat a bit and the scene ends. In the next scene Y goes through the motions with Z, and so on, and on the whole the characters are about as well rounded as the letters of the alphabet here representing them. In the production by Love and Madness that was my exposure to this play the sex was replaced by a highly charged Tango which was quite impressive to begin with but when I tell you there were 10 of these encounters you may understand that the novelty soon wore off. In fact, like sex itself, the whole thing quickly became tedious and repetitive.
Part of the problem is the play itself, which gives you little reason to maintain an interest. There was no sense of ‘Will they/won’t they?’ as you knew that they definitely would, within a matter of minutes. But the production didn’t help matters, changing the gender of some the characters to create an edginess but instead leading to absurdity. Would a 19 year old bloke really be worried that his mother didn’t know where he was? Also the neat circular nature of the play was ruined by the fact that a character who was male in the first scene had become female by the last. The acting was generally of a high standard, though the old bloke with the beard was a bit rubbish (and the section where he was sucking someone’s toes was just yuck). Most unforgivably the advertised ‘moments of nudity’ never appeared. There were bras and pants, which were alright I suppose, but don’t put it on the posters if you’re not going to go through with it.
As it is, this is a play that would only appeal to erotic group theorists, if such a thing exists.