Written by: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Directed by: Frédérique Michel
Production Design by: Charles A. Duncombe, Jr.
Cast: Tatiana Alvarez, Ruth Crossley, Greg Hecht, Andrea Isco, Jonathan Liebhold, Christian Youngmiller, Jody Moschetti, Freddy Nager, Mark Rebernik, Bo Roberts, Paradorn Thiel, Doria Valenzuela, Gustav Vintas
review by Paul Birchall
Director Frédérique Michel’s production of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s elementally disturbing black comedy is depraved, loathsome, and vile. And, in this unique case, those are all meant to be compliments. Exploring Fassbinder’s bleakly ironic and ghoulishly jaundiced world view through exotic visual spectacle and often surreal imagery, Michel’s staging is unusually well matched with bizarre and over-the-top psychotic text.
Fassbinder’s play is equal parts self-indulgent sleaze fest, penetrating social satire, and Natural Born Killers (The German Version). It’s unfortunate that the show is also entirely hard to stomach: the mix of monsterous acts of cruelty and wince-inducing jags of debased sexuality — presented with a melancholy, jaded insouciance — create a show that is both compelling and disgusting. The production is frequently quite effective at chilling the blood. But it’s certainly not for everyone.
As a video monitor plays a quick-paced montage of clips from appalling slasher movies (all available on video, I believe), we’re treated to a staged biography of serial killer lovers Ian Brady (Jonathan Liebhold) and his girlfriend Myra Hindley (Andrea Isco), who were responsible for a series of torture killings in the 1960s. Brady and Hindley are indeed sick cookies: He happily masturbates to DeSade’s Justine, while she lets herself be whipped senseless for spending her weekly pocket money too quickly. Both sincerely believe themselves to be more highly evolved than the rest of humanity, which by their lights gives them the right to torture their hapless captives to death.
As the pair accomplish their dreadful deeds, the play also focuses on a number of other revolting characters — a transvestite prostitute who gets beat up by her john, two doctors who mercilessly ignore the human test subject they’ve punished into catatonia, and a soldier who is forced to perform push-ups on top of a knife. These blackout sequences are subsequently all repeated, but this time with the tortured person playing the oppressor, and vice versa.
Michel stages the play’s cruelty with an eye for detail that’s simultaneously horrifying and humorous. The performances crackle with intensity and venom, particularly Liebhold’s cooly restrained Brady and Isco’s creepily devoted Myra. Also amusingly grotesque in supporting roles are Greg Hecht, as an extremely lurid male stripper, and Gustav Vintas, doing his dead-on Maurice Chevalier impersonation as the consummately creepy narrator.
Calling Pre-Paradise Sorry Now unwholesome is like saying the Son of Sam was mildly irritated. This is a deeply distasteful and provocative show.”