Arthur Prince (Robert Meyer), the nervous patient at the center of the play, suffers a series of visitors — doctors, family, friends — as he confronts and accepts his mortality. Three of the episodes, as well as the final scene, end with false-alarm deaths turned into jokes. The dialogue is peppered with black humor and observations about the human condition, which at times have the paradoxical effect of making the play seem both slight and over-layered with intentions.
The scenes are introduced by a small young woman (Nora Somaini) dressed as death in skimpy leotard, skull cap and ghoulish makeup. She slithers daintily across the stage bearing a small blackboard with clumsily chalked scene titles and smiles mockingly at the audience.
With the exception of Arthur (Meyer as an Everyman insurance salesman) and his psychiatrist (played with quiet strength by Ursula Hopfner), the characters border deliberately and effectively on caricature. Florentine Groll plays the surgeon as an upscale Sid Caesar, Therese Affolter is Arthur’s tarty, spoiled wife, Thomas Dannemann his sulking son. Silvia Vas doubles as a sexy nurse and oily awards show hostess in a macabre dream sequence wherein Arthur wins a golden skeleton for best tumor. Branko Samarovski is the gritty, diaper-clad private eye, and Gunter Einbrodt portrays a tough Hollywood tycoon with a laugh that somersaults into barks of pain.
Tabori directs with jaunty style and tempo. Stanley Walden’s music bolsters Tabori’s touch, segueing from dog howls to eerie mood pieces and jumping to cheerful jazz.
Tabori wrote the play in English. Considering the Hollywood setting and the comic approach to its topic, “The 25th Hour” seems a likely candidate for the regional and Off Broadway market.