There was not much I liked about Tales from Red Vienna. David Grimm’s play is based on the fact that some wealthy women in Vienna turned to prostitution as a means of support at the end of World War I. Many were destitute and alone with no means of support. Interesting plot, poor execution.
The play starts with a bang (literally, if you get my gist) but it is downhill from there. The story is trite and predictable. I felt that Nina Arianda as Helena was miscast. She is completely unconvincing as a genteel, upper-class Viennese woman who is down on her luck. She plays the role as if she was a modern woman in 2014 – but one who is bawdy and brazen, much as she played her role in Venus in Fur. However there were no thigh-high boots in this play.
Helena lives with Edda (Kathleen Chalfant) who puts in a good performance as the wise-cracking housekeeper who likes to hit the bottle. There’s a young delivery boy smitten with Helena, who barely notices him. This makes for a silly side story. Helena’s friend Mutzi (Tina Benko), who wasn’t adversely affected by the war, is bored with her husband. She is ready to throw Helena under a bus to get what she wants. Then there is Bela (Micheal Esper). Bela is who Mutzi wants.
We first meet Bela as one of Helena’s clients. He falls in love with her after they are “properly” introduced by Mutzi. Bela admits he’s a man who frequently engages in the services of prostitutes. So all of a sudden this is true love, not just convenience? (especially since he helps out with household expenses). Oh yeah… don’t forget the husband who comes back from the dead. Who didn’t see this coming?
Fear not, this is not a totally negative review. I did like the set, but that may be because I like to see it rain on stage in the theater. And I was pleased with the way the play ended. I left the theater underwhelmed but, at least, not annoyed. Do yourself a favor and skip this one. LAR
Manhattan Theater Club through 4/27: http://www.manhattantheatreclub.com/
Discounted tickets available for $59 at Broadwaybox.com: http://www.broadwaybox.com/shows/tales-from-red-vienna/