Glass that has shattered can’t be fixed properly. You have to find the pieces that fit together but then again you won’t be able see them as a whole. Broken minds can’t be repaired either, too complex with all their experiences and beliefs. Realising that you can’t change the damage you have caused to yourself and others will eventually break your heart.
This is the thought that came upon me after watching “ Scherben“ (“Broken Glass“) at the Ernst Deutsch Theater with my free card (every first semester student can get one!). It inspired me to think about society; the thoughts and beliefs that can poison our souls.
Arthur Miller’s play, written in 1994, is about a Jewish couple; Sylvia, a very smart and attractive woman, and Phillip Gellburg, a real estate broker, that lives in Brooklyn in 1938. Although, they are wealthy and haven’t been hit by the Reichskristallnacht (“Night of Broken Glass“) in Germany the interaction and health of the married couple is really going down the drain. Sylvia has recently become unable to move or feel her legs and she now depends on her helpful, loving but also bad-tempered husband. She is also taken care of by the rational physician Dr. Hyman, whose investigation shows that there must be a complex psychological cause for her paralysis. Therefore, he tries to find out more about the couple’s personal beliefs and their relationship. He digs deep into their past and reveals shocking facts about their typical 1930s-marriage, their anxiety that is caused by the humiliation of Jewish people in Germany and the self-loathing husband that has destroyed his wife’s life. As Dr. Hyman interviews Phillip, Sylvia and her sister the story evolves and the broken pieces of their relationship are pieced together until they are shattered apart again.
This play was actually the first play I’ve seen at the Ernst Deutsch Theater. It is a rather small theater but the actors perform brilliantly and the stage design made it feel like a true story from the 1930s. The actors playing Sylvia (Isabella Vétes-Schütter) and Phillip (Henry Arnold) have created a complex, non-verbal relationship (in addition to the actual conversations they were having) that conveys gender roles which were accurate at that time. This has made me think about gender roles today and how they still influence our relationships and behaviour.
Henry Arnold has created a great irrational and contradictory character that is troubled by mood swings which reveal his crackling self consciousness. It is really striking that this kind of behaviour can lead to so much psychological trouble.
In addition, Steffen Gräbner’s performance as Dr. Hyman leads you through the play and makes it exciting and interesting. Seeing him interview Sylvia and Phillip creates a wonderful sense of suspension – it makes you want to know their whole story. He is the one character the audience can fully relate to. Gräbner’s sane and rational way of acting makes one believe that every word he says as a Dr. is actually true and reasonable. Nevertheless, the whole cast’s acting is out-standing and left me deeply impressed.
I can absolutely recommend this play to people who are interested in psychology, sociology, gender studies and history. It may not have a big story line or a huge cast but exploring the depths of human psychology made the play really enthralling and inspiring. Sometimes this is even more valuable than something that is just fun, entertaining and meaningless.
Go and check it out yourself!
Where? Ernst Deutsch Theater , Friedrich-Schütter-Platz 1
When? Until 9 November 2013
How much? It will be free if you have a „frei KartE“. Usually prices go from 18 to 37 €.
By Linda Rojahn
Linda was listening to the sound of lives breaking apart while writing