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A French Festival Where the Actor Is King


This four-hour production is a freewheeling version of Molière’s 1665 play. As is his custom, Mr. Castorf has “augmented” the play with additional material, by the French writer Georges Bataille and the German playwright Heiner Müller among others. Don Juan’s amorality opens the door to transgression and nudity onstage, and the female actors are, at times, aggressively sexualized. Still, the hero in this version, played by two performers, Franz Pätzold and Aurel Manthei, is more nihilistic than a standard womanizer.

Mr. Pätzold and Mr. Manthei carry much of the production, whether they’re blowing rings of smoke in aristocratic dress or racing around the stage naked. Nora Buzalka, as Charlotte, a peasant very willing to be seduced, also stands out alongside her dimwitted fiancé, played by Marcel Heuperman. The rotating sets, which feature a small wooden stage and a pen for three goats, are beautifully detailed, but after the interval Mr. Castorf appears to have been running on empty and brings little resolution to the hodgepodge of ideas in the text.

A series of solo performances brought a sense of focus back to the festival. “Le Marteau et la Faucille” was initially created as an interlude in “Joueurs, Mao II, Les Noms,” Julien Gosselin’s 10-hour stage adaptation of three novels by Don DeLillo, which had its premiere last year. Now presented as a stand-alone work, “Le Marteau” is an adaptation of a short story by Mr. DeLillo, “Hammer and Sickle,” about a hedge fund manager jailed for financial crimes. Bathed in red light, the indefatigable Joseph Drouet delivered it breathlessly into a camera while his performance was simultaneously projected on a screen behind him.

The young Julie Delille, another solo performer and one of just a handful of female directors in the lineup, delivered a work of remarkable visual precision with her adaptation of “Je suis la bête” (“I Am the Beast”), a novel by Anne Sibran. Ms. Delille herself plays the heroine, a 2-year-old girl abandoned by her parents. The show starts in pitch darkness, as if to mimic the closet in which she is trapped.

The girl is rescued by a cat and grows up among animals in the forest. Much of the story could easily look silly (how to stage a dangerous encounter with badgers?), but Ms. Delille has created spare tableaux that suggest the girl’s evolving physicality, from a prowling beast to a rescued orphan. Her instincts promise much for the future.



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