Thomas Jonigk

You Shall Give Me Grandsons

Inszenierung: Burkhard C. Kosminski
Bühne und Kostüme: Meike Urban
Ulrich Suesse

Amerikanische Erstaufführung am
10. Januar 1997 ,
The Marylin Monroe Theatre, Los Angeles
The Lee Strasberg Creative Center
The Goethe-Institut / German Cultural Center and Villa Aurora

Der Sohn : Steven Sennett
Die Mutter : Michael Learned
Der Priester : Tom Paliferro
Charles Camp : Bjorn Johnson
Norma : Arlene Golonka
Mary : Yutah Lorenz
Der Vater : Scott Crawford




„…There’s something inherent in European comedy that is darker, more dangerous and daring than American theatre. Especially its social satires and farces, which not only accuse, provoke, confront and shock, but teeter between physical violence and buffoonery.
Consider the repeated poundings received by stock characters in Punch and Judy, commedia del’arte, the brut theatre of Grand Guignol, the menacing absurdity of Jarry’s Ubu Roi, or anything by Artaud, Brecht, Ionesco or Beckett.
In this stylized tradition, and through these sensibilities, German playwright Thomas Jonigk has written You Shall Give Me Grandsons – a controversial farce that walked off with the prestigious Muelheimer Festival Award. If you’re knowledgeable about theatre (as most Drama-Logue readers are) and can experience his work in this cultural context, you’ll understand why Jonigk was named “the most innovative young playwright in Germany”. If not, you may have some difficulty responding to the stringent demands that are put on this American premiere production.
Jonigk not only paints a grotesque portrait of the contemporary family, he lampoons and makes a mockery of motherhood, family lineage, the Catholic Church, sociology, homosexuality – in fact, almost everything status quo.
Using an English translation by Penny Black, Burkhard C. Kosminski (German artist-in-residence at Villa Aurora, the former home of intellectual émigré, Lion Feuchtwanger), directs his ensemble through highly charged performance on Meike  Urban’s surreal, black and white, game-board set. A Villa Aurora fellow herself, Urban also designed clever, outrageous costumes.
Michael Learned (most recently seen in the Mark Taper production of Three Tall Women) is quite remarkable as the powerful, manipulative Mother in this caricature family. She is the protagonist who demands that her younger son marry and give her a grandson. Never mind that he refuses, never mind that he’s openly gay, never mind that he hates women. “The Mother” will buy him a wife a force him to procreate, or kick him out of the house without a penny. As an extremely wealthy widow, the Mother knows that everyone is for sale. Even the Catholic Church.
To say that Kosminski makes his cast jump through hoops is putting it mildly. Performing like clockwork, they all meet the demands of Jonigk’s rigorous material, but Steven Sennett as the son is especially outstanding. The sole object of his mother’s attention and determination, Sennett delivers his lines like Shakespeare’s fool, while covering the stage (and the first few rows) like a trained acrobat.
Yutah Lorenz is absolutely delightful as Mary, the virgin Marriage Candidate and dotty sociology student. Equally good is Arlene Golonka, a wanton free-spirit who acts a Mary’s chaperone (who just happens to be the long-time mistress of the Mother’s dead husband). Also turning in fine performances are Tom Paliferro, as the priest looking for a rich widow to endow his church; Bjorn Johnson, as the corrupt and jaded older brother who is studying medicine; and Scott Crawford as the deceased father, Dr. Charles Camp, who looks down on the family from his imposing portrait over the mantel.
To put it in a nutshell: They are hypocrites one and all. ..”



“ …”Grandsons” could best be described as a drawing-room comedy set in a circus. German director Burkhard C. Kosminski balances the play’s broadness with delicately disciplined timing. …”

Los Angeles Times


“…Grandsons would have made a great one-act play; stretched out over a full evening it might become trying were it not for yeoman work done by Kosminski, who gives the text such style and pizzazz it dances by an elfin feet. …”



“…Burkhard Kosminski’s direction is fast-paced and finely choreographed, coordinating entrances and exits from multiple directions, complex lighting effects (by designer Carlos Colunga) and music (from composer Ulrich Suesse) with the precision of a Swiss timepiece.
The dialogue and a good deal of the action is outrageous, clearly designed to shock, but if you’re in the mood for a wild ride, this show is the ticket. …”



“…Together they form an illmatched conglomerate of lost souls in search of a present, a past , a future and all destinations beyond their reach. The play takes serious aim, in comedic terms, at many conventional targets – the church, motherhood, homosexuality and Jell-O.
Burkhard C. Kosminski directs with vengeance, using physical absurdity to further obfuscate the seriously farcical premise of a woman deprived of her womb, and therefore power, seeking it through the unborn children of her frittering-out sons. Learned is a treasure –statuesque and ridiculous at the same time, gorgeously gowned and ludicrously coifed, a completely mixed media of absurdism, reality, comic strip and Greek Tragedy.
The accompanying family sketches are bravely and well drawn by an excellent cast, and The Father (Scott Crawford) called on, in a retro move, as final arbiter, is portrait perfect in appearance and voice.
Not for everyone, Grandsons can disturb, even as it makes you laugh…and squirm. …”



 “…The colourful cartoon-like set and costume design somewhat redeem the controversial farce, bringing a lighthearted feel to the serious underlying themes. …”

Daily Trojan

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