The First Bad Man becomes Der erste fiese Typ

A report about the premiere of Miranda July's Der erste fiese Typ

In the film "You, Me and Everyone We Know” American filmmaker, comedian, author Miranda July introduced a ditzy do-good character and everybody fell for her GenX appeal. In her 2015 novel “The First Bad Man”, her character Cheryl is a similar kooky soul. On stage here in Zürich, Cheryl’s more perky than ditzy - but just as misguided; a woman knotted up cringingly wrongly – and with her every effort to loosen her knots, she knots herself tighter. Choice of job. Object of desire. Spiritual beliefs. This mental pretzel then gets saddled with someone else's problem daughter. The chronically self-deprecating Cheryl has to cope with confrontational in-your-face flat mate, Clee. The stage is set for one sloppy collision course and what transpires is a raucous polterzeitgeist of identity transformations – raw, dirty, tender, heartbreaking, passionate and human.

The conflict process takes unexpected turns, meaning, just when you think it's about to get predictable - it doesn't. Director Christopher Rüping is hugely effective in mirroring these “loosers’” inner turmoils, using a video artist on stage to magnify them. He sets the two off barreling out of control, stumbling down slippery slopes, emerging through emotional wildernesses until ragesexlifedeathcompassion in all its awkwardness finally delivers something intact and Zurich pops out with a highly original rollercoaster ride of a theater experience. American soul singer Brandy Butler brings a wonderfully benevolent force to the production, her voice lifting the whole so it floats through its mire of messy tensions.

I saw the former artistic director Barbara Frey's final show ending her 10-year tenure, James Joyce's “The Dead” (Die Toten). It was elegiac, sublime. About the most gracious swan song an intendant could deliver as a fond farewell. So it was indeed a delight to see Der erste fiese Typ, with English subtitles for us non-German speakers, and to be reminded how theater has the capacity to implode and, like a phoenix, reincarnate.