MUNICH : Theater contingency plans pay off as shows go on, despite a second lockdown.

Perhaps it's the onset of winter, the shorter days and longer evenings, but right now, watching theater at home, online, doesn't seem quite dreary or tiresome as it did during the spring lockdown.

Back in March, theater scrambled to put up as much of their recorded archives as they could, resulting in a staggering volume of nightly streams that was nearly unmanageable.

With Germany's second lockdown, which began in early November and was recently extended through the end of the year, theaters are trying to keep their current season going with a mix of premiers and recent recordings at a time when they can't welcome audiences inside their auditoriums.

All this shows that theaters here have learned something from the experience of the past eight, mostly performance free months.

While stages remained dark, some theaters made contingency plans for future lockdowns. It's difficult to generate excitement about a premier that no one can attend, but the Deutseches Theater in Berlin managed to create a buzz around Sebastian Hartmann's staging of Thomas Mann's ''The Magic Mountain'' in mid-November.

Mr. Mann's protagonist, Hans Castorp, plans to stay a few weeks at a Swiss sanitarium and ends up as a patient there for seven years.

In bringing the novel to the stage, Mr. Hartmann, a critics darling whose productions often seem more like installations or performance art than conventional theater, explored the knotty nexus of time, space and reality with a grotesque intensity.

To all appearances, Mr. Hartmann's point of departure is one of the novel's most famous chapters, ''Snow,'' a hyperreal interlude in which Castorp falls sleep during a blizzard and has vivid and unsettling dreams.

For much of the production, the eight actors trudged across the stage in clumpy white body suits that made them look like deformed Michelin Men, often accompanied by projected video game-like animation [Tilo Baumgartel] and ominous music [Samuel Wiese].

The stagecraft, cinematography and editing combined to produce a disconcerting effect, like spending two hours in a storm. With no discernible plot, the strange goings on - and shrill monologues - quickly grew tedious.

The honor and serving of the latest happenings in Germany's online theaters continues. The World Students Society thanks author A.J.Goldmann.


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