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Doing Good Things

a American Premiere
by Rahel Savoldelli and Anne Tismer

VENUE : 7 Stages [WEBSITE]
ID# 2473

SHOWING : September 06, 2007 - September 09, 2007



In this piece by German Actresses Rahel Savoldelli and Anne Tismer, two sisters want to "Do Good Things" but find themselves distracted by daily banalities and petty squabbles. In German with English Supertitles (which may or may not be a translation).

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Found in Translation
by Dedalus
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Let me start out with an embarrassing confession. I have no idea why I liked “Doing Good Things (Gutentun)”, the German performance piece that just ended a one-weekend stay at 7 Stages. There are so many reasons to dislike it. Much of it is in German (with a few English supertitles we are told do not represent a direct translation). It jumps from scene to scene with apparent pretentious symbolism and little narrative structure. And, for the life of me, I can’t penetrate much of its subtext or cultural referents. (As a pseudo-intellectualite ex-English Major, I have a lot of trouble admitting “I just don’t get it.”)

So, let’s think a spell, here. I’ll try to articulate what I liked, and maybe, by the time I get to the bottom of the page (yes, I try to limit my pseudo-reviews to one Arial 10-Point MSWord Page), I’ll figure out why I liked this piece.

First, a bit of background. Actresses Rahel Savoldelli and Anne Tismer met a few years ago and struck up a friendship. They discovered similar tastes and drives and obsessions. With some fellow artists, they began to create theatrical pieces exploring ideas and images, trying to put some of life’s persistent questions into a theatrical context that may (or may not) point to a kind of answer (Guy Noir in drag, as it were). For “Gutentun,” they envision two sisters who want to go out in the world and do good, help people, and solve problems. But, they find their path blocked by day-to-day banalities, personality roadblocks, and not-well-thought-through goals. The answer here is that life is more about the roadblocks than about the goals (an anti-Rachel-Corrie, if you will – funny how you can find thematic synchronicity when you look – pun intended).

The first thing I noticed was the charm and energy of the creators/performers. They were funny, human, exasperating, and irritating all at the same time. The odd thing was that I understood what they were talking about, even when I didn’t understand what they were talking about (my High School German is too many decades in my past to be any use). More accurately, their attitudes and interactions let me create my own story that I could pretend was a cogent translation of what they were saying.

Ms. Savoldelli also sported an apparently pregnant stomach she was not shy about sharing with us – I have no idea what significance this added to the proceedings, but I found myself applauding her choices (not to mention her finding the stamina to tour internationally in this condition, if she really is pregnant). I also have no idea why I feel a need to talk about it here.

The next thing I noticed was the props. This is quite a props-heavy show, and, by the end, the stage is littered with the detritus strewn aside as the actresses bounce from scene to scene. As a frequent loser in the traditional props-versus-actors conflict, I have nothing but the most profund respect for those focused enough to let the props fall where thy will. And some of the props are hysterical – toast and dishes on fishing lines, a dish-scrubber lowered from a window, a toaster that takes on a life of its own, a mustache (don’t ask) that takes on a life of its own.

Something I’d like to insert here – I may have been wrong up above when I referred to “apparent pretentious symbolism.” What I think I saw was more a parody of “pretentious symbolism.” Now that I’ve thought a spell, the random images, sequences, and juxtapositions probably “meant” no more than their surface appearance. I think why I enjoyed this more than the similarly Germanic “Hamletmachine” is that, in this case, the play was not trying to be deeply Profound and Significant. It was a simple theme brought to life with absurd scenes that meant nothing more than to give us a chuckle at what they “could” mean (or what pseudo-intellectualites like myself would decide they mean).

So, there’s my answer! I responded to the theatricality of the piece, to the energy and talent of the performers, to the absurdity and feigned complexity of the images and juxtapositions, and to the story I created in my head. It was a pleasure “found in translation,” and, I somehow suspect, I may have indeed found the original dreary and pretentious, if I ever would take the time to understood the original.

So, who can’t respond to the Lennonesque idea that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans? Who can’t respond to the banality that results from the bravest of intentions? Who can’t respond to two attractive women speaking a foreign language and flashing their bellies at us?

And, I, too, could save the world if I could only find my pencil.

-- Brad Rudy (



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