by Paula Citron
Deutsches Theater Berlin
at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival
Written by Gotthold Ephraim Lessing
Directed by Michael Thalheimer
Starring Regine Zimmerman, Sven Lehmann, Ingo Hülsmann, Nina Hoss, Peter Pagel, Barbara Schnitzler and Henning Vogt
At the Avon Theatre until Nov. 9
Stratford Shakespeare Festival has scored a coup in bringing the legendary Deutsches Theater Berlin and its acclaimed production of Lessing’s 1792 classic Emilia Galotti to Canada. Director Michael Thalheimer’s extraordinary vision for the play makes it a timeless universal.
The production is theatre as pure artifice. Every word uttered, every movement, every pause, every facial expression is meticulously choreographed on an empty stage. Thalheimer has created physical theatre that acts out the subtext. The words are only the surface veneer. For example, when Prince Gonzaga hears Emilia’s name mentioned — the young virgin he covets — his body literally convulses in waves of lust. This is a play where everything inside and outside is shown.
The play is agonizingly slow at times, but that glacial pacing allows the audience to absorb the surprising visual and aural images. The brilliant seven-member cast make themselves totally vulnerable in both their verbal and body language.
Emilia Galotti continues at the Avon Theatre until Nov. 9.