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‘Die ganze Welt’ nicely integrates into American theater

By Adam Lamper

Section: Arts

October 28, 2016

Often the true essence of a play becomes “lost in translation” as it is adapted to new cultures and exposed to new audiences. However, Theresia Walser and Karl-Heinz Ott’s performance of “The Whole World” (originally “Die ganze Welt”)—as translated into English from the original German by Ingrid MacGillis—was almost unanimously received by the audience and playwrights as a near perfect rendition. Many playwrights even felt that in some respects it surpasses the quality and emotional valence of the original. Brought to campus by Brandeis’ own Center for German and European Studies, and sponsored in full by the the German Embassy in Washington DC’s 2016 program, Germany Meets the U.S., this performance featured several actors familiar to the Boston acting scene.

Deb Martin is playing the part of Tina, a care-free mother of two with a troubled past involving infidelity. Martin’s larger-than-life stage persona added its own unique comedic flare to the play. Having performed in a previous version of the play, Martin mentions in a post-performance discussion, “it gives me a lot of freedom to wildly switch tones and feels without necessarily needing to connect some of the dots because it felt like it could be real, it could be a dream, it could be the way it existed in someone’s memory, it could be somebody’s perceptions; it sort of gave it a freedom to explore each and every way, and that was a lot of fun.” This diverse range in paradigm was clearly demonstrated in Martin’s frequent emotional shifts and was tactfully carried out given her superb acting ability. Though perhaps not the main character of the show, Martin surely left an impression of greatness in audience members.

Thomas Kee, a Boston-based actor who played the part of Tina’s emotionally unstable husband, was certainly no stranger to the spotlight in this performance, as he portrayed an archetypally insecure, middle-aged man. Having performed this play before, Kee remarks on how this time, being older, the story and strife of the characters appears to be significantly more applicable to his own life. “The thing that my character felt, the sort of desperation of having something like this happen at this point in their life, and how they were so groping for it,” Kee says, “I was like, ‘Wow! This is my life’…It’s like you peel away a little layer of yourself every time.” This remark perfectly sums up what is perhaps the most essential theme of this play, the struggle and strife of a middle-aged person to make sense of their life and to find true purpose. Kee shows us through his character that middle age can be just as confusing and emotionally crippling a point in one’s life as adolescence, contrary to what many are led to believe.

Arguably the main character in the play, Richard, played by Craig Mathers, was without a doubt the most serious and grim character in the performance. Mathers was always the one who centered the digressions back to the central theme. It is evident that Mathers’ character represents the physical manifestation of the existential doubt that accompanies the aging person who is confronted with their own inevitable mortality. Throughout the play, Richard mentions working full-time on his “scripture,” (arguably a vague reference to any goal attempting to be obtained), and how it will only be completed once he is no longer living. At the same time he is also signifying that he believes to some degree that his life work will be completed in vain, and utterly fruitless.

Differing from Richard is his antagonistic wife, Regina, played by Maureen Keiller, and actress who has a striking resemblance both in acting potential and physical appearance to Julianne Moore. Keiller’s character plays a pivotal role through constantly switching the interactions with her husband from argumentative to amiable and back again numerous time throughout the performance. As a medical doctor, Regina is the primary “breadwinner” of the household while representing a stereotypical nagging wife archetype. Because of her character’s vast range in expression (even more so than Martin’s character) Keiller’s character was perhaps the most memorable one of the night.

As a whole, this performance was able to strike a chord with both the older members of the audiences as well as the Brandeis students themselves. Older audience members saw pieces of themselves hidden within the characters, while Brandeis students were able to make striking connections between the behaviors of the characters and that or their own parents of guardians. Though not one of Brandeis’ own productions, this was certainly one of the best performed in Slosberg’s Merrick Theater this semester. This is due in large part to the competence of the actors, but without a doubt most importantly due to the applicable verity of the content.

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