October 12, 2007

Back Stage October 10, 2007

Start Up
October 10, 2007
By A.J. Mell

This uncategorizable production from GTA's Road Theater USA casts a gently absurd light on German-American relations by using that most American of literary metaphors, the road trip. Written for the company by acclaimed German playwright Roland Schimmelpfennig (and translated by Daniel Brunet), the piece sends up cultural stereotypes and mythologies in a charmingly oblique and playful way.

Fiction and reality bleed into each other at indeterminate points, because Start Up is a theatre piece about a German theatrical trio touring America in a whimsical green bus performed by a German-based troupe touring the country in a whimsical green bus. Our innocents abroad are Rob (Nils Nellessen), Micha (Nicolai Tegeler), and the more cynical Kati (Lisa-Marie Janke), who find themselves broke and hungry in an unnamed small town. A down-to-earth realtor named Ike (Roland Sands) takes them under his wing and rents them an empty storefront, which the three friends hope to turn into a performance space. Ike and his semi-nymphomaniac daughter Liz (Myxolydia Tyler), however, have agendas of their own.

This straightforward story alternates with large-screen projections (courtesy of Austrian video artists Claudia Rohrmoser and Herr Schobel) and occasional narrative digressions — notably a chronicle of German-American relations from the invasion of Normandy to the war in Iraq. Director Ronald Marx gives this motley assemblage an appropriately low-key rhythm that highlights the script's droll humor.

Start Up confirms how large the mythology of the West looms in the European image of America. For these idealistic, peripatetic artistes, the land east of the Mississippi might as well not exist; their America is all dusty little towns and wide-open spaces. (You can tell the Germans from the Americans because the Germans wear cowboy hats and Western shirts.) The piece has its bemusing moments as well as its occasional longueurs, but it wins you over with its formal adventurousness, charming performances, and sweetness of spirit.

Presented by GTA's Road Theater USA
at Performance Space 122, 150 First Ave., NYC.
Oct. 7-14. Tue.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sat. and Sun., 4:30 p.m.
(212) 352-3101 or (866) 811-4111 or

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