Theater review: Little Man, What Now?

Published in 1932, Hans Fallada’s "Little Man, What Now" was a best-seller. It reflected the plight of the ordinary German struggling to exist .

Little Man, What Now (photo credit: (Gadi Dagon)
Little Man, What Now
(photo credit: (Gadi Dagon)
Published in 1932, Hans Fallada’s Little Man, What Now? was a best-seller. It reflected the plight of the ordinary German struggling to exist despite political turmoil, massive unemployment – more than 6,000,000 – and continually rising prices.
It tells the story of Emma Mörschell, nicknamed Meme (Dana Meinrath), and Johannes Pinneberg, aka Katani, or Little One (Eran Mor). He’s a minor clerk. She comes from a blue-collar family. They fall in love, and when Meme gets pregnant, they get married.
Neither has a job, but they’re sure all will be well. It won’t, though, because the world they live in is hard-hearted, grasping and treacherous. What begins so hopefully ends wretchedly, and yet a spark remains. They have each other, they have their baby, nicknamed Shrimp, and Meme still has hope.
The adaptation by Itay Tiran and Dori Parnes is an ambitious, colorful, lively, witty and tuneful revue-type panorama of the novel. In it an accomplished cast plays the multiple characters who stomp into and out of the young peoples’ lives with little more consideration than visitors to the fairground carousel Polina Adamov’s ingenious doublerevolve set suggests. The clever costuming is hers as well, while she and Katya Shepeliavaya are also behind the brilliant multimedia graphics that complement the action, as do Dori Parnes’ finger-snapping arrangements of period songs.
As a production, performance overall tends towards the shrill and monochromatic, lacking nuance in pace, rhythm and tone, but there are nonetheless some lovely solo turns.
Eran Mor in voice and body expressively charts Pinneberg’s slide from a sense of selfworth to abject humiliation and in Dana Weinrath’s capable hands, Meme’s continued optimism never gets Pollyanna-ish. We see her struggling with the despair to which she refuses to succumb.
Pinneberg’s mother Mia is greedy, selfish and mean, and Helena Yaralova has her down pat. She also does a great Marlene Dietrich, singing a number about Berlin.
Mia’s sometime lover, a petty crook called Yachman, supplies almost the only kindnesses that Meme and Pinneberg encounter, and Gadi Yagil invests him with a shifty, uneasy tenderness.
Consummate craftsmen both, Dudu Niv and Yossi Graber illuminate their various roles, especially as rascally landlord (Niv) and profitobsessed store-owner (Graber).
Gil Weinberg has a hilarious cameo as a gold-toothed real estate agent.
And if asked whether this Little Man has captured the fractured transition from the end of the tormented Weimar Republic to the beginning of Hitler’s Germany, the answer has to be “yes.”
Little Man, What Now? From the novel by Hans Fallada Adapted by Itay Tiran & Dori Parnes Directed by Itay Tiran Music & arrangements by Doris Parnes Cameri, March 7