I saw *History of Violence* at St. Ann's Warehouse on 11/30/19. It's a play based on the second volume of the memoirs by Édouard Louis. The adaptation was done by Thomas Ostermeier, Florian Borchmeyer, and Louis himself. I had seen a stage adaptation of the first volume of his memoirs, *The End of Eddy,* at BAM in November and that play knocked me out so much I decided to see this. I should note that *History of Violence* has no relation to the David Cronenberg movie *A History of Violence* (which is brilliant).
The production was by the Schaubühne Berlin, in German with English titles projected onto the stage. The play didn't have the elegant force of *The End of Eddy,* but it still packed quite a punch. The central story is about a pick-up that goes quite wrong: Louis met a guy, took him home, had lots of sex and a fair amount of tenderness and intimacy over the course of the night and morning, then the man robbed him and raped him. We, as audience members, are told the outline of this story at the beginning, the story is told within the framing device of Louis talking with the police about the incident.
It was disturbing, as it should be. The thing that was surprising was that even though I knew the ugly direction the story would take, I was still drawn in by the sweetness and charm of the two men meeting. That balance, I imagine, is difficult to achieve, and they managed it beautifully.
The play had a small cast, only four actors, all of them giving powerful, committed performances. Director Thomas Ostermeier used the space and the design creatively. I was less convinced by the moments of abstract group dancing, choreographed by Johanna Lemke.
The use of music was fantastic - - Nils Ostendorf wrote a score heavy on drums, with the onstage drummer underscoring the play mostly with a cappella drums, sometimes with drums and prerecorded music, sometimes (in the more tender moments) with atmospheric chords played on a small electronic keyboard. The music added greatly to the show.