The new year is the perfect time for new beginnings (or so expensive diet plans would have us believe….). So it’s perfectly fitting that Die Kömodie kicks off the new year with a production of Antoine Rault’s Auf ein Neues. On Christmas Eve, Catherine (Marion Kracht) stumbles across the drunk, down on his luck bum, Michel (Daniel Morgenroth) and throws him out of her building’s foyer back into the cold night. But, unfortunately for her, she can’t also throw out her moody teenage daughter, Sarah (Lene Wink). Catherine, through force of will and hyper energy, has become a driven, successful businesswoman…. her ability to relate to her daughter as a single mother has not found the same success. When Sarah learns her mother has kicked Michel out, she accuses her of being heartless and incapable of feeling love and charitable compassion. Triggered in her own rage, Catherine decides to invite Michel into their apartment to share Christmas dinner with them. One drunken evening later, and having learned a bit about Michel’s past, the girls have picked up a new project: re-socialize Michel and return him to civilized society. But new beginnings never go smoothly, as Catherine soon learns she can’t force Michel to conform to her exacting specifications.
Die Kömodie’s production hits a few bumps as well, especially in the beginning. There is a real emphasis on over the top physicality and vocalization for comedic effect, which sometimes reads more as overacted than funny. Likewise, the mother-daughter relationship can feel a bit cliché at times, fighting about clothes and boys and ‘just not understanding’! Tears are quick to fall for a hormonal teenage girl and frenetic hysterics undermine Catherine as a strong, single business woman. In the first act, the real payoff, and why one emotionally sticks around, comes in the form of the gentle Michel. Despite his poor circumstances, Michel is down to earth, physically funny but not overdone. Michel’s little quirks and acknowledgments of how he at times disgusts Catherine and Sarah evokes pity and compassion, without falling into pathos. That being said, there is only so many “homeless people smell” jokes that can be made before it gets tired and perhaps a bit offensive.
Nonetheless, it is well worth sticking around for the second act, where the production, and the mother-daughter duo, really find their footing. Their chemistry finally clicks as they appear more natural and relatable in their responses to each other: Sarah reveals a giddy quirkiness and a real desire for a connection with a parental figure and Catherine is simply charming as she laughs at her own jokes. And the repeated calls from Catherine’s mother subtly evoke the generational nature of mothers and daughters and what happens when the daughter becomes the mother and sees all the youth and potential that she fears she has lost. It makes for a sweet ending between both Catherine and Sarah and Catherine and Michel. The unlikely couple sell their chemistry, though the ease with which alcoholism is dismissed is a bit concerning, though easy to brush aside amidst the joy.
There is a timing issue that persists throughout the production. While there is a lot of humor throughout each scene, the actors can never seem to land the final beat before the scene hits a blackout. The timing always feels like they forgot that was meant to be the last line. That is, until the last beat, where the triumphant love and bit of enthusiastic humor clicks with perfect timing. And perhaps that perfectly epitomizes the show: there are stumbles and missteps, but over all, you leave feeling hope and a desire to call your mom and tell her you love her.
An Heiligabend stolpert Catherine über den betrunkenen und vom Glück verlassenen Obdachlosen Michel und wirft ihn aus dem Hauseingang ihres Gebäudes zurück in die kalte Nacht. Etwas, dass die am liebsten in gleicher Weise mit ihrer zickigen Teenager-Tochter Sarah machen würde. Durch Willenskraft und Power ist Catherine zu einer sehr ambitionierten und erfolgreichen Geschäftsfrau geworden. Ein Erfolg, der sich bei der alleinerziehenden Mutter in Bezug auf ihre Tochter hingegen nie so wirklich einstellen wollte. Als Sarah erfährt, dass ihre Mutter Michel aus dem Haus geworfen hat, beschuldigt sie sie, herzlos und unfähig zu sein, Liebe und wohltätiges Mitgefühl für andere Menschen zu empfinden. Ausgelöst durch ihre eigene Wut beschließt Catherine, Michel in ihre Wohnung einzuladen, um das Weihnachtsessen mit ihm zu teilen. Einen durchzechten Abend später und um einige Erkenntnisse über Michels Vergangenheit reicher, haben Mutter und Tochter ein Projekt: Die Resozialisierung Michels und seine Rückkehr in die zivilisierte Gesellschaft. Aber Neuanfänge verlaufen nie reibungslos und so muss Catherine bald lernen, dass sie Michel nicht zwingen kann, sich an ihre exakten Vorgaben zu halten.