Travel back in time to Vienna to experience a wonderful story filled with comedy, hope and romance in the world premiere production of Tales From Red Vienna at New York City Center’s Stage 1 produced by Manhattan Theatre Club.
Tales From Red Vienna is written by David Grimm and tells the story of a young woman, Helena, who finds herself living a double life. After her husband’s death, Helena does what she must to keep herself functioning in society. However, how society views her as compared to how her friends view her are two entirely separate looks. However, when Bella Hoyos shows up, he has the chance to ruin everything and expose Helena for who she actually is.
Nina Arianda stars as Helena Altman and once again proves herself on the New York Stage. Arianda, best known for her Tony Award winning performance in Venus in Fur, captivates the audience from moment one and brings forth an instant connection we can all make. She is outstanding and she hits every emotional spectrum throughout the piece and brings to life the young girl trapped in a life she clearly never planned for. Michael Esper stars opposite as the lovable Bella Hoyos who you can’t help but fall for. While at first he may appear slimy in his ways, hang in there. Esper proves not only himself but the character in the end showing that there is more to people than we see at first.
Tina Benko stars as the hilarious Mutzi von Fessendorf who can’t seem to get enough of life despite having it all. She proves as a comedic force throughout the piece with her consistent over the top appearances. Speaking of comedy, Kathleen Chalfant, who stars as Edda Schmidt, will have you laughing nonstop during her time on stage. From consistently drinking to her hilarious one-liners, Chalfant makes most of her time on stage bringing the audience to joyous moments repeatedly. Lucas Hall makes the most of his minimal time on stage starring as Karl Hupka. During his short time on stage, his character brings to life someone the audience not only grows to dislike but doesn’t want to see as he looms over the production making statements and gestures we unfortunately know people deal with in real life relationships daily. Michael Goldsmith stars as the adorable Rudy Zuckermaier. Despite his short appearance as well, his moments on stage matter in the sense of relationships and a sense we have all felt before; hopelessness. He is an important stepping-stone in this show’s gradual rise to it’s ending.
The show is performed in three acts with two intermissions. You will be transported to Vienna in the 1920’s through the scenic design provided by John Lee Beatty and the costume design by Anita Yavich. Peter Kacorowski’s lighting design plays perfectly off the scenic and costume elements given to him and create beautiful pictures throughout much of the piece. Rob Milburn and Michael Boddeen provide a great sound design with fantastic music that appear consistently throughout the production.
One may never know if the Tales From Red Vienna are true or not. While a tale is defined as a story that is imaginatively recounted, I think the recounting here is in what is the most important things that matter in our every day lives. People matter. Connections matter. What we do and what we do not do matters. But most importantly, love matters.
Review By: Chris Luner
Photos By: Sara Krulwich