by Marius von Mayenburg
Directed by: Theodor-Cristian Popescu
Lette is ugly, but unaware. One day he finds that his unpleasant look is the reason for which his boss does not allow him to present his newest invention at a congress. When he realizes that beauty is not in the eyes of the beholder and after his own wife avoids looking at him, he decides to undergo surgery, a decision with significant consequences in his private and professional life: his competences are more appreciated and he becomes a point of attraction for female admirers. But when his face becomes a product on the market, his life takes another turn.
Interview with Marius von Mayenburg
"The Ugly One" emerges not like a solemn piece belonging to the spiritual world of contemporaries, but as a brand new von Mayenburg. It emerges as an Anglo-Saxon boulevard comedy with dry humour, in need of minimum acting psychology, efficiently moving past jokes and gags. A play suited for London's Royal Court.
They too will do it soon enough. This kind of writing is not too unusual for me; it's more like a return to techniques, which have given me great pleasure in the past, too: my first one-act plays and, prior to that, my puppet plays. So, for me, it was neither a revelation nor the desire to accomplish something new.
So how did the transition to plastic surgery take place?
Plastic surgery functions in the play just like a magic trick. This theatrical procedure incited me: you snap your fingers and suddenly somebody becomes somebody new…
… the spontaneous transition of the three women, played by one actress, who see the same man differently each time…
… the transformation of the actor into different characters, but also the actual transformation during surgery on stage. The game consists in the fact that we are fooled as spectators and we are presented with the familiar masquerade.
The beautiful and the ugly face, before or after surgery, are the same on stage…
… differentiation occurs only in the eyes of the beholder. The principle of duality is added: since you can turn a person into another, everyone can be turned into someone else. But I'm a little saddened by the fact that I didn't think of also turning women into several Lette; to go beyond sexual frontiers. But also the principle of alteration, of illusion, the question what a physical change actually is, what is going on in the spectator's head, I got great pleasure from swimming into this pool of ideas.
It starts with the fact that Lette lives his live being ugly, but unaware.
I have discussed the issue with many people who told me that there had been a moment in their lives when they thought that maybe they were handicapped, that maybe they were the only different ones and everybody else knew it, but they didn't. This paranoid fantasy has a unique fascination. It happens to so many people.
Franz Wille. "Die japanische Lösung." Interview with Marius von Mayenburg. Theater heute, 4/2007. pp. 46-48.