Review: The Builders
The hardships of home improvements in this repertory production
Posted: January 2, 2013
Originally a Danish production, but staged in Prague in Czech with English surtitles, The Builders features a murderous young couple who off their house builders.
By Meghan Modafferi
FOR THE POST
The Builders, a Czech-language production of a Danish play with English surtitles, follows an attractive young couple as their house is renovated. Their live-in builders are slow, incompetent and ultimately turn out to be swindlers. Both halves of the couple, as well as several of the builders, repeatedly fall out of the house upon exit, or into it upon entrance. Throughout the play, a set of porch steps are promised and never delivered, providing a constant reminder of work left undone.
In the play, written by Line Knutzon and directed here by Daniel Hrbek, the head builder reprises "It's too complicated for laymen to understand" as his pre-chorus for demanding more money and evading explanation or responsibility. The wife, Alice (played by Klára Cibulková), placates her angry husband, Manfred (Kamil Halbich), dreaming with increasing desperation about the beauty their house will eventually embody.
When: Through Feb. 23
Where: Švandovo divadlo
As in a Shakespearean comedy, every problem quickly intensifies from inconvenience to exasperation. The shingles hit the proverbial fan when the husband accidentally pushes a female builder down the indoor staircase, where she promptly dies. Terrified (as this is only his first murder, and practice has not yet made him perfect), the husband shakily approaches his wife, who helps him hide the body in their cellar.
Gradually, the theory and practice of murder become more natural to the young couple as they off every last builder. The weapons become increasingly extreme and comical. They start off innocently enough, with no gore or flamboyance from a fall down the stairs. The climax, though, is all the drama of a microwave on a head, plugged into a wall, with the electrical cord strummed like chords on an electric guitar.
Granted, occasionally, one's reading speed or the tempo of the projections may cause someone who cannot understand the spoken dialogue to laugh 10 seconds early or late, but, for the most part, we are all laughing together.
As an English teacher for adult professionals, I have heard horror stories about home renovations from many of my students. Sitting in the theater, I imagined each of them watching this play and personally relating to the ineptitude of the builders. It would seem this Scandinavian product easily translates into Czech and that the hassles of home improvements are as universal as, well, murder. Take a humdrum and pervasive annoyance, expose the absurdity, add the intensity of the darkest thoughts that you'd never say out loud, and stir well.
Meghan Modafferi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org