GUIDE TO PERFORMANCES IN DECEMBER 2017

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 Here is your guide to the performance options in December 2017.

Entries are arranged by theater or venue.

Átrium Színház 

This former cinema retains its classy, nostalgic interior, and there is a splendid buffet with tasty cakes, coffee, and drinks. Still, expect steeper than usual prices (for the tickets, too). The stage was never remodeled. We are gazing at where the movie screen used to be, so the sight-lines are a little wonky. Clever directors are able to work around this, though.

Kaiser TV, Ungarn - Time travel and a mythical 19th-century television station are just a couple of the fantastic premises on which this tale is based, hinging on the possibly reversible outcome of a battle in the Revolution of 1848. This could be Béla Pintér’s most feel-good show. (He and Szabolcs Thuróczy give splendid turns as Sándor Petőfi and Lajos Kossuth, respectively.) Still, this story is definitely by Hungarians for Hungarians. December 1, 2

Sehova kapuja [Gate to Nowhere] - An early play by Béla Pintér that deals with the misguided evangelists of a religious cult who journey deep into the countryside to make converts. Fanaticism, alcoholism, folk dancing, drug use, and repressed sexuality are all unpacked. A journey to nowhere, perhaps, but undeniably unique. December 7, 8

Átriumklorid Committed theatre artists Gábor Hever and Kriszta Biró take on Lajos Parti-Nagy’s five (mostly) unrelated scenes about four and a half couples. At times more prosy than dramatic, it takes a master of the Hungarian language to truly appreciate Parti-Nagy’s cracked rendering of modern Hungarian speech and slang. December 9

 

Belvárosi Színház

 

Vőlegény [The Bridegroom] - While Ernő Szép’s play is a provocative treat from the 1920s, in which a struggling lower middle class family is happy to prostitute their youngest daughter if the financial rewards are adequate, the cast fails to evoke a convincing picture of everyday life in the crowded flat. Tamás Kimmel-Szabó is splendid in the title role. Patricia Kovács is adequate. With time, György Gazsó and Katlin Takács may strike the right balance as the young girl’s parents. The double seduction scene in the second act is the highlight, but all too often, director Eszter Novák replaces comedy with onstage busy-ness. December 27

 

Budapest Operetta Theatre

 

A chicagói hercengő [Duchess of Chicago] - This “lost” operetta by titan Imre Kálmán is a delightful piece of light entertainment with a paper-thin plot, catchy tunes, and lots of eye-catching costumes. The producers turn the romantic tale into a fable about cultural assimilation, complete with a happy ending. Perfect for a family outing or a treat for older relatives. December 9, 10

 

Játékszín

 

Bankhitel [Bank Credit] - Tamás Lengyel, Imre Baksa, and Zsuzsa Járó (the latter in video clips) deliver a pleasing performance in Jordi Galceran’s lightweight take on capitalism, loans, and infidelity. Great use of animated clips only expands the world of the play, hinting at its larger themes. December 15

 

József Attila Színhz

 

Sóska, sültkrumpli [Sorrel with Chips] - This particular performance ran for around a decade at the now defunct Budapest Studio Theatre before migrating to the József Attila Színház venue. Its central concept, a play about a soccer match seen through the eyes of the referees, is quite clever. The result is a light and amusing show, and though it may seem a bit routine, Zoltán Karácsonyi and Károly Nemcsák embody their characters as easily as well-worn jerseys. (studio space) December 5

 

Jurányi Inkubátorház

 

Sociopoly - Don’t let language fears stop you from playing this interactive board game, acting as a member of one of four families trying to live out one month in the poorest county of Hungary. The situations are clear. Take a back seat and enjoy this one-of-a-kind, eye-opening experience. A must-try! English version also available. December 1, 9

Napraforgó [Sunflower] - Andrea Pass’s finely observed family drama slips in under the radar, but the audience is soon party to her characters’ innermost feelings, culminating in complicated conflicts, Chekhovian silences, and emotional catharsis. Highly recommended! December 2

A csemegepultos naplója [Deli Counter Diaries] - The novel by Márton Gerlóczy receives a sterling stage adaptation courtesy of dramaturge Ildikó Lőkös, razor-sharp direction by Pál Göttinger, and a spirited performance by András Ötvös. At 80 minutes, it does not strain one’s patience, and even if you don’t understand much of the text, Mr. Ötvös’s presence is riveting. December 3, 10

Egyasszony [One Woman] - It is difficult to recommend monodramas, since understanding the language is so crucial to comprehension. Nevertheless, this could well be the best monodrama now in Budapest. Réka Tenki gives a touchingly direct performance as the clueless young mother of an autistic child, dealing with the hideous pressures heaped upon her in addition to a bad marriage, before she decides to take control of her own life. Through the magic of theatre, she becomes a woman before our very eyes. December 4, 16

Bebújós [Snuggle in] - When the children’s games at nursery school take on a sexual nature, the parents start hysterically pointing fingers, and there are plenty of red herrings to keep the audience guessing. Nearly all the actors play one parent and their respective child, so it is clear how behavior and traits are passed along. Another good show by Andrea Pass! December 8

Árpádház [House of Árpád] - György Spiró’s historical drama follows the Hungarian royal family from Kálmán the Bookish to Géza II (c. 1110-1140), but mostly focuses on Béla II (or Béla the Blind). Despite mostly bland dialogue, this can be a good show (as previous productions have shown) if the producers supplement it with exciting elements. Still, the cast, crew, and musicians here all seem to be holding back. The result is as dull as history class. December 9

Négy fal között… [Between Four Walls; or, Closed Doors, Open Legs] - Inspired by an old-fashioned Austrian sex manual, this play seeks to uncover the sexual secrets and hang-ups of one family, relying mostly on physical motion and behavior (not dialogue) to tell the story. It is too underdeveloped to support the piece’s mounting absurdity. Nevertheless, Rozi Székely is excellent. December 9

A Pitbull Cselekedetei [Acts of the Pit Bull] - The play itself by Péter Kárpáti is something of a metaphysical adventure, which begins with a modest Budapest couple’s moral dilemma, then breaks the fourth wall, before bending the laws of time and space. The production is remarkable for its top-notch cast, including Angela Stefanovics, Zola Szabó, Natasa Stork, Zsuzsa Lőrincz, and the appropriately superhuman Zsolt Nagy. December 14

 

Karinthy Színház

 

Degeneráció [D-Generation] - This simple, yet disarming slice-of-life comedy concerns the social and romantic lives of a bunch of partying college students in Budapest. Devoid of deep meaning, it still manages to be light-years better than the prime-time television show Ejjel Nappal Budapest. It also carries the subversive message that sometimes lack of communication saves relationships. December 10, 13, 30

Klotild néni [Aunt Klotild] - Gábor Vaszary’s three-act farce is a classic example of cabaret theatre, but by English standards, it qualifies as an old chestnut. For this musty humor to appeal to you, you must have a decidedly old-fashioned funny bone. December 17

 

Katona József Színház

 

Elnöknők [Leading Ladies] - This absurd piece by Werner Schwab premiered in 1996 and survives to this day thanks to sublimely grotesque performances by Judit Pogány, Ági Szirtes, and Eszter Csakányi. The piece itself, however, is little more than an ad hoc collection of shocking bits and set pieces. (studio space) December 22

Portugál - On his way to Portugal, soul-seeking Bence shows up in the no-where Hungarian village of Irgács and turns the status quo upside down. Zoltán Egressy’s now classic play has spawned a 1999 film, and this production itself has run since 1998. It features legendary performances by Imre Csuja, Ági Szirtes, and Zoltán Varga, although Tamás Keresztes and Réka Pelsőczy seem rather mature to be playing the romantic leads. December 23

A bajnok [The Champion] - Whether or not you are aware of the sex scandal upon which it was based, this Béla Pintér work is a fascinating and effective adaptation of Puccini’s one-act opera Il tabarro, with the political elite of a small Hungarian town standing in for the dock workers of the original. A daring and mostly stellar cast sings its way through the updated libretto about politics, sexuality, and parental responsibility. December 27

Bihari This biographical drama about an intellectual blackmailed into becoming a spy under the Communist regime on account of his homosexuality is not well executed. There are too many pointless conversations and go-nowhere scenes. Despite a committed cast, it is difficult to understand the exact repercussions of the anti-hero’s actions. By the end, he is reduced to a quivering mass of self-loathing. “I’m a shit,” he says. Agreed. (basement space) December 27

A két Korea újraeyesítése[Reunion of the Two Koreas] This love-it-or-loathe-it offering from the celebrated Katona József Theatre showcases its excellent company of actors in Joël Pommerat’s roughly 20 unrelated and underdeveloped scenes about rotten relationships. Some consider it a triumph of good acting over poor material. In my opinion, however, the vomitous script cannot be redeemed. December 7, 19

Minden jó ha vége jó  [All’s Well That Ends Well] - Gábor Zsambéki’s direction drops this problematic comedy by Shakespeare into a circus milieu, but that does little to illuminate the complex human relationships on display. Bertram, Helena, Parolles, and Diana, instead of being intriguing personalities, emerge as merely dull. László Szacsvay gives a good show as the French King, but that alone cannot save the production.

 

Kolibri Színház

 

LocspocsChildren’s performances are often very entertaining and inventive, as well as easier to understand than adult drama. Take for example the tale of Locspocs, the sea monster who is afraid of the water. He overcomes his fear, learns how to swim from an octopus, embarks on an adventure, and finally finds a deserted island where there lives a near-sighted female dragon who seems made for him. Along the way, there are colorful cameos, like the pirate Másfél played by István Múlt. December 10, 11

 

MU Színház

 

Szólók [Solos] -  Living up to the title of their production, the Hodworks company delivers a series of dance and performance solos – not without flashes of humor, most memorably supplied by Csaba Molnár. The audience sits in a single row surrounding the space on four sides. If you do not like to be drawn into the action, be aware that dancer Marcio Canabarro makes direct contact with three or four random audience members during the show. December 13

Peer Gynt - Do not expect a full version of Ibsen’s classic epic fantasy in verse. This version by Káva Kulturális Műhely focuses on a small portion of the whole with intense audience interaction, so spectators shape the performance. The cast is strong, especially Sándor Terhes as the Goblin King. December 14

A halandóság feltételei  [Conditions of Mortality] - The Hodworks company strikes again, this time with a performance that is both emotionally and philosophically appealing. In the first part, the dancers shed their identities (i.e., their clothing), then try to reinvent themselves from the others’ discarded garments. This is most clear when super-feminine Emese Cuhorka adopts a masculine identity and struts about in an exaggeratedly macho way. The second part is a sprightly parody of ballet or, as one audience member called it, a dance of joy. December 14

 

Nemzeti Színház [National Theatre]

 

Éden földön [Eden on Earth] - The legend of Istók Hany is Hungary’s answer to L’enfant sauvage. Supposedly, the boy, who had grown up in the wild, was found by fisherman and brought to the royal court in 1749. Eventually, though, he fled back into the wilderness. In this dramatization, he simply finds the civilized world, with its superficial manners and pedantic ways, too baffling. The nearly two-hour running time is filled out with stunning costumes (especially in the wilderness scenes), dancing, and catchy, simplistic tunes courtesy of Tamás Szarka (front-man of the popular group Ghymes).The show is perfect for children, but liable to irritate adults with its lack of content. December 3

Shakespeare Összes Rövidítve [The Complete Works of Shakespeare] - This crowd-pleaser premiered in New York around 2000, then turned up in Budapest shortly afterwards. It has been packing audiences in for some 15 years now thanks to the contagious antics of the three-member Madhouse troupe, delivering a delightful, and ultimately respectful, romp through classic literature. In English! (workshop space) December 15

Szent Szőrnyetegek [Saintly Monsters] - Best described as an existential All About Eve, Cocteau’s play is well constructed with plenty of passionate speeches and emotional twists, and the director does a convincing job of modernizing and localizing it to the National Theatre. Still, the production is overloaded with extraneous material and distracting effects. Auguszta Tóth and Mari Nagy shine in their supporting roles, and Eszter Ács, who is very credible as an ambitious young actress, holds her own against seasoned pros like Eszter Nagy-Kálózy and Zoltán Rátóti. December 16, 17

For the complete review, click here.

PsychéThis attractive adaptation of Sándor Weörös’s remarkable creation (based on the work of a mythical 19th century poetess that Weörös penned himself) boasts a strong ensemble cast of passionate young acting school graduates. The text, though, is extremely challenging. Much of the original’s humor does not make it to the stage, so the ending becomes bogged down in melodrama and feels thirty minutes too long. December 17

Vitéz lélek [Valiant Spirit] - One of Áron Tamási’s lesser-known plays, it receives a lavish production here with well-conceived set and lighting designs. Typical of the author, it mixes pastoral realism and fairy-tale, but the construction is somewhat lopsided. Actor Lajos Ottó Horváth must singlehandedly bear enough tragedy for two plays (or one Calderón drama) in the last act, but he does so admirably. At the end, a hymn resounds, as though we are inside a large organ, no doubt to underscore the roots of Hungarian Catholicism in rural Transylvania. December 27, 28

For a related article, click here.

Csíksomlyói passió [Passion of Christ from Csíksomlyó] - The 18th-century Hungarian re-interpretation of the Biblical story seems made for the National, but then there is a confusing clash of styles. Director Attila Vidnyánszky erects an alternate seating area to bring the spectators closer to the action. A live ensemble transports us to a small village square where the Passion of Christ will be performed. Then, the loud canned music and bombastic special effects begin, together with repetitive stage gestures that make it seem like a three-hour movie trailer. Nándor Berettyán brings a peculiar cluelessness to the role of the Messiah, as though the other villagers pushed him onto the scene as a last-minute substitute. Meanwhile, narrator and raconteur András Berecz strives mightily to bridge the gap between the professional actors and the folk dancers who embody the villagers and the vox populi, but this is a production divided against itself. December 29, 30

 

Örkény István Theatre

 

Tótek [The Tóth Family] - This adaptation of Örkény’s novel is far different from the classic play adaptation. The producers seem determined to show us all the material that we would have missed if we only watched the play. This means Modern Direction 101, with plenty of face-forward and direct address to the audience. Despite the innovative staging, the result is singularly un-dramatic. Highpoints are provided by the World War Two-era songs that punctuate the storyline. Still, we might as well read the novel at home, or watch the movie Isten hozta, őrnagy úr with Zoltán Latinovics. December 1, 20

Emlékezés a régi szép időkre [Recollection of the Good Old Days] - This monologue based on the memoirs of István Eörsi provides humorous insight into life under Communism, both before and after the Revolution of 1956. Yet, despite István Znamenák’s ingratiating performance, the monodrama is unsuccessful. It is mere storytelling with absolutely no tension or conflict. (studio space) December 1

Azt meséld el, Pista [Tell That One, Stevie] - For his one-man-show, Pál Mácsai embodies the theatre’s namesake, István Örkény, and simply recounts tales from the talented author’s life. No, it is not a three-act drama, but it delivers precisely what it promises. December 2, 22, 25

Az Ügynök halála [Death of a Salesman] - True to their style, the Örkény stages Miller’s classic in a stripped-down, minimal fashion – meant to bring out the beauty of the text and not necessarily arouse our emotions. When Willy’s wife claims at the end, “I cannot cry,” we are supposed to share her sentiment. December 3

IV. Henrik I-II. [Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2] - An intelligent précis of this problematic and sprawling history play by Shakespeare. No one turns out to be a hero, and with the actors constantly doubling, it sometimes seems as if the lower class is masquerading as the nobles (or vice versa). It is best to go in knowing the play, since the staging is quite minimal. December 4, 17, 28

For the complete review, click here.

József és a testvérei [Joseph and his Brothers] - Dramaturge Ildikó Gáspár and director Tamás Ascher go in search of the Great Narrative, staging Thomas Mann’s 1,500-pages novel, which covers Chapters 27-50 of Genesis. With slightly less than 20 actors playing the numerous roles, you will find yourself consulting the family tree in program again and again during the nearly five-hour running time. Given the bare-bones set, we get the impression of a lengthy, low-budget Sunday school pageant with too few, albeit uncommonly talented, performers. December 5, 6, 15, 27

For the complete review, click here.

Apátlanok [Fatherless Ones] - This contemporary play by Csaba Mikó is brought to life through brilliant performances and stage wizardry, with a “working” home environment projected, outlined, and colored on two-dimensional flats. I imagine a vast number of spectators, Hungarian and otherwise, can identify with the theme: the dysfunctions of a group of siblings who grow up with a father who is largely absent from their lives. Still, it is less of a play than a prose piece placed onstage, which makes it difficult for non-natives to follow. December 9

Anyám tyúkja 1. [Mother’s Hen, Part 1] - Not recommended for beginning language students, but if you are studying Hungarian poetry, there is no better introduction than the Örkény actors’ interpretations of these compulsory poems, staged as though delivered by serious and passionate Communist-era schoolteachers who gather outside a traditional peasant house. It is especially moving for those who grew up with these poems. As in several other Örkény productions, the incidental music provided by Árpád Kákonyi is icing on the cake. December 26, 31

Anyám tyúkja 2. [Mother’s Hen, Part 2] - With the second installment of their poetry program, director Pál Mácsai broadens the net, selecting a wider range of poems that are lesser known and cover more adult themes. The journey is deeper, but thematically arranged as the poems deal with questions of identity, existence, family life, and even sexuality. Nearly all the performers, seasoned veterans and talented newcomers alike, have a shining moment. December 11, 21

A Bernhardi ügy [The Bernhard Case] - Director Tamás Ascher wisely sets this classic Schnitzler play in a modern-day hospital in Budapest, demonstrating how anti-Semitic incidents are absolutely conceivable nowadays, too. When head doctor Bernhard (Pál Mácsai) bars a priest (Zsolt Nagy) from delivering last rights to a dying young Catholic girl, the resulting scandal sparks a hospital mutiny, even resulting in the doctor’s temporary incarceration. The atmosphere is very stark and white, sterile, as though this case were on the dissection table. The treatment is intelligent, but rather cold and objective. In a late encounter between the priest and the doctor, it is unclear what the priest really wants from Bernhard. Does he want him to see him suffer, apologize, or merely treat him with respect? December 12

HamletTraditionalists beware! The immortal play is treated very irreverently here, more like a comedy with some raucous (though agonized) clowning by Csaba Polgár in the lead role. The central concept of staging the play in a football stadium, with soccer hooligans standing in for the common rabble, works well, revealing clearly what director László Bagossy wishes to convey with this play. Politics is a sideshow. Entertain us. December 14, 29

Diggerdrájver [Digger Driver] - Pulled from an actual blog, the modern-day experiences of a blue-collar worker who leaves Hungary with his second wife and son for the promise of a better life in London could not be more topical. The nearly two hours of material is delivered in a monologue with disarming credibility by the talented actor Attila Epres. Foreigners may be puzzled, though, by the morose mood at the end. From our point of view, this is a success story. What is there to cry about? (studio space) December 14, 28

Macskajáték [Cat’s Game] - For her staging of Örkény István’s popular play, Ildikó Gáspár goes back to the original novel. This love triangle among 60-somethings, charting the decline in the fortunes of two sisters from a well-to-family, is well told. The Kádár-era milieu is captured with impeccably chosen costumes and props, and Éva Kerekes is a revelation as the mousey neighbor Egerke. That said, the staging can be static, and the lengthy monologues in the second half are not easy to follow without some knowledge of Hungarian. December 16

Három nővér [Three Sisters] - Chekhov’s most produced play in the English-speaking world receives the Örkény treatment – with suggestive costumes, a stripped-down and rotating set, and low-key delivery from the actors. The results are surprising – less of a family drama than a tonal poem about death and the ephemeral nature of life. The cast is strong overall, but particularly memorable were Nóra Diána Takács (as Olga) and Réka Tenki (as Masha). December 30

 

Pesti Színház

 

ToldiThis production must be a godsend for Hungarian students, who are required to read János Arany’s epic heroic poem. Here Gábor Csőre recounts it all in a very appealing and entertaining fashion. Despite his abundant charm, however, the language remains unyieldingly old-fashioned and poetic – hence, very difficult to understand. December 1, 5, 16

 

Radnóti Színház

 

Lear király [King Lear] - Shakespeare’s juggernaut tragedy is staged in a modern, though enjoyable fashion by director Róbert Alföldi. All the characters are seated around a massive semi-circular table for lunch, and who is that? King Lear has a wife?! (She will stand in as the Fool in future scenes.) The increasing destruction and disorder in this living room symbolizes the decay and degeneration in relationships and the kingdom itself. (Pay attention to the spinach bisque. It will be important.) Mari Csomos brings the greatest depth to her role as Kent (although it is not at all certain that the king believes her disguise), and András Pál is an able Edmund. In the lead role, Zsolt László does not delve deeply into Lear, but his erratic and staccato style is appropriate for the king’s unhinged behavior, and he completely commits to the nude scene. This may not be a cathartic King Lear, but the final stage picture is haunting. December 3

Üvegfigurák [Glass Menagerie] - This production helmed by Péter Valló loses much of the poetry of the original, but mines uncommon sources of humor, which serves as an antidote to the cloying sentimentality that often hangs over this play. Jenny Horváth’s set captures the opacity / transparency that Tennessee Williams called for, but then Ádám Porogi (as Tom) must constantly slide the walls into position. And watch the stereotypes at the beginning. Jack Daniel’s, Lucky Strikes, and country music! How American can we get? Like the music choices, the outcome is mixed. Rozi Lovas’s reactions and handicap are too exaggerated in the first half, but she shines in her scene with Daniel Viktor Nagy, who is excellent as the gentleman caller. By using a device from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Tom must grow increasingly drunk as he narrates, only to sober up suddenly for his final weepy speech. Adél Kováts creates a very clear character for Amanda, but comes off as a verbal tyrant who will not allow anyone else to speak. There are fine elements in this production, but the performers need more time with the material and experience with audiences in order to strike the right balance. December 15, 16, 21, 30

 

RS9 Színház

 

De mi lett a nővel? [But What Became of the Woman?] - Much in the style of Complete Works of Shakespeare (Abridged), the three Hungarian actors romp their way through nine interlocking short stories by Chekhov. Their spirit is infectious, and they capture the master’s bizarre sense of humor, often balanced on the razor’s edge of tragedy. Initially, they explore characters too self-centered to recognize other people’s pain, before evoking the legendary actress referred to in the title, an elusive and ultimately unattainable object of desire. December 1, 18

Folyóügy [Case in Progress] - A clever set and lively stage movement brighten up Braun Barna’s cabaret-like vignettes of Hungarian reality. There are plenty of laughs of recognition, not a terrible amount of depth, and at least one troubling stereotype. Stand-outs in the cast are Katalin Merai and Gábor Jaszberényi. December 5, 6

Többszörös orgaznus [Multiple Orgasms] - In this long-standing crowd-pleaser by the Anarchista Company, director Ferenc Sebő, Jr., takes as an instructional guidebook to the world of sexual swingers and develops a series of wild sketches with his fine ensemble of very game actors. You may not approve of the lifestyle on display or buy into the swinger philosophy, but you are guaranteed some hearty belly laughs. December 6

Tizennegyes kórterem [Hospital Room 11] - A very promising play written by newcomer Tamás Tóth tackles the familiar trope of the mental patient who has an enlightening and potentially dangerous effect on his fellow inmates. Seemingly set in modern times and in a French (!) institution, the show benefits from committed performances by László Kassai (as the head psychiatrist) and Gábor Jaszberényi (as the young man who believes he is St. Martin). December 10

Szürke kertek [Grey Gardens] - It is the last performance of this stage adaptation of the Maysles brothers’ cult documentary, and I will truly miss this show, since its WTF factor was through the roof. What possessed Orsolya Balogh and Esztella Levko (two committed and apparently talented actresses) to adapt this work, which resulted in a well-performed, but static 50-minute kvetch fest? Despite its shortcomings, the performance was a mind-bending treat for fans of the film, and the set by Anna Fekete was simply perfect. December 19

 

Stúdió K

 

A rettentő görög hős [The Fearsome Greek Hero] - Stúdió K has a long tradition of brilliant puppet shows for children, and this rendering of the exploits of Theseus is certainly one of them. It is a great introduction to these tales from Greek mythology, and young theatergoers relish the scenes of stylized violence. December 30

 

Szkéné Színház

 

A nagy füzet The Notebook deploys a bizarre mix of elements – offbeat casting, dance, and strange use of food as props – to serve up a remarkably stimulating adaptation of Ágota Kristóf’s bleak World War Two-era novel with a hypnotic final tableau. Just be familiar with the story beforehand. The actors deliver chunks of prose at top speed. December 2

Bányavakság [Mine Blindness] - The second (and most satisfying) installment of Csaba Székely’s trilogy about modern life for Hungarians in Transylvania focuses on politics, scandal, and blackmail, topped off with a dollop of ethnic tension and violence. The misery may seem a bit overdone by the end, but Gergő Kaszás is spectacular in the lead role. December 5

I. Erzsébet [Elizabeth I] - Modern English playwright Paul Foster revisits the history books and gives us a burlesque-style romp, providing some delightful off-the-wall sketches, but also some troubling stereotypes and a heavy-handed conclusion (warning us of the evils and potential resurgence of Fascism). Although he was acclaimed for his lead role in drag, I found Tamás Fodor’s performance overrated. Far more entertaining were Péter Bercsényi (as Mary Queen of Scots) and Gergő Kaszás (as Catherine de Medici). December 15

Szívszakadtig [Till Heartbreak] - What begins as a romantic melodrama about heart transplants takes a dive into political button-pushing with the sudden appearance of a half-black, illegitimate, retarded young man capable of astonishing violence if he ever receives the love that he craves. Writer Béla Pintér is out to provoke our worst fears about immigrants, but the result is a rancid brew. Best to skip this one. December 21, 22

Fácántánc [Pheasant Dance] - This altogether different offering by Béla Pintér’s company does not appeal to our emotions. Rather, it unfolds like an intellectual fable. An orphanage / sweat-shop in Hungary, once freed from Turkish domination, embraces the bureaucratic and liberal ways of the West. But then a leaked recording shifts the power from Mrs. Rázga to the gender-bending Gabi, who wishes to lean East, in a more illiberal direction. Thinly veiled political commentary? Perhaps, but it is entertaining and thought-provoking, predicting that the next generation (with no models of good leadership) will move in radical direction. December 28, 29, 30

 

Trafó

 

Titkaink [Our Secrets] - This bomb devised by Béla Pintér exploded in 2014, and it has left audiences shaken ever since. As an intelligent exposé of Communist-era informers, the dance house movement, and pedophilia, it is simply unbeaten at straining the viewers’ nerves to their breaking point. Plus brilliant gender-bending performances by Eszter Csakányi and Angéla Stefanovics. Highly recommended! December 4, 5

 

Vígszínház

 

HamletFor the first time in its long history, Vígszínház hosts the Danish prince and does so on a wondrous set that lifts, descends, rotates, lights up, shows videos, etc. Still, the dramaturgy gets a little wonky, starting off with a dues ex machine (the ghost’s appearance), but then not following through with it. (I could imagine Fortinbras appearing at the end in the same fashion, but certainly not Laertes.) Attila Vidnyánszky, Jr., brings astounding energy and physicality to his battle with this unwieldy text, but he seems to be abusing his vocal chords for the last two hours. In the second half, there is a purifying pool of water, where Hamlet and Gertrude (Enikő Börcsök) share an incestuous kiss, and where King Claudius (Géza D. Hegedűs) and Ophelia (Nóra Réti) take separate nude dips (the former flamboyantly, the latter bashfully). All in all, the message is difficult to discern. Who is this Hamlet who impersonates his mother in drag before the whole court, and who has much more chemistry with the Player King (Károly Hajduk) than with Ophelia? He begins to resemble Helmut Berger’s character from Visconti’s film The Damned. On the plus side, Ákos Orosz gives us an emotionally credible Laertes, and the climactic swordfight is impressive. December 3, 19, 20

A léggömb elrepül [The Balloon Flies Away] - Promising a carefree bill of prose, poetry, and songs by beloved early 20th-century writer Dezső Kosztolányi, this one-man-show does not disappoint us. It may take a strong command of Hungarian to understand the text, but as Béla Festbaum sings and narrates his way through the material, you know you are in the hands of a pro. A thoroughly charming event! (studio space) December 17

Játék a kastélyban [The Play’s the Thing] - This classic meta-theatre exercise by Ferenc Molnár is a gem, but by all means, avoid the current production in which the uneven cast tends to fumble the comedy. The leading role of Turai, the mastermind playwright, can be a tour de force for an actor, but Miklós Benedek mostly mumbles his way through it. December 27

 

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Lusuka 2018.06.25. 10:12:03

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