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.

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.

Die 25. Stunde

Production

An Akademietheater persentatiion of a full-length play in one act by George Tabori, translated by Ursula Grutzmacher. Directed by Tabori.

Crew

Set, Marietta Eggmann; costumes, Margit Koppendorfer; lighting, Peter-Heinz Gruber; dramaturg, Rita Theile. Music, Stanley Walden. Akademietheater director Claus Paymann. Opened Feb. 13, 1994, at the Akademietheater. Reviewed Feb. 17; 496 seats; 450 schillings ($ 35) top.

With

Arthur Prince ... Robert Meyer His Wife ... Therese Affolter His Son ... Thomas Dannemann Willy Callaghan ... Branko Samarovski Jay Jay ... Gunter Einbrodt Dr. Salmon ... Florentine Groll Dr. Greenberg ... Urusla Hopfner Nurse Cavendish ... Silvia Vas Dr. Davenport ... Christoph Gareissen Dr. Bluebird ... Gerhard Naujoks Dr. Korngold ... Sven Sorring Dr. Castro ... Fidele Artiste Death ... Nora Somaini In what may be his farewell play for Vienna's Akademietheater, playwright George Tabori takes a long look at the audience and concludes that though not yet dead, it is in the throes of a long, painful death. Irreverent humor, morbid jokes and outbreaks of silliness keep the audience chuckling in painful recognition. The setting is a men's ward in a Hollywood hospital, the Lazarus, with vases of funeral flowers off to one side and a fountain graced by two swans at the front of the stage. An old man with a bandaged head and wearing an oversized disposable diaper wades in the pond, evoking the image of sick pilgrims in the Ganges River. A team of doctors surveys the audience while shaking their heads, clucking discouragingly and grimacing at us, and the chief physician delivers the first of many weighted pronouncements. "Imagine we are attending a young man with a horrible wound ... If we can't help him, at least we don't want to hurt him." When you faint, he advises his students, fall backwards; and they practice just that, rather than medicine.
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